Closing the gap between mental and physical health in southeast London

IMPARTS1A pioneering King’s Health Partners initiative to identify and treat mental illness in people with physical health conditions is now running in more than 50 hospital clinics across Lambeth and Southwark.

More than 20,000 patients have now been screened for signs of anxiety or depression alongside their physical health needs at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts. The initiative is running in services ranging from limb reconstruction and rheumatology to eczema and kidney transplant clinics. Data shows that nearly one in four of patients screened have shown signs of probable major depressive disorder and/or generalised anxiety disorder. As a result, many of these patients have also received some form of care or treatment to also address their psychological needs.

30% of people in the UK with long-term physical health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or heart problems also have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. When mental and physical health problems are combined, people are often less able to manage their conditions properly, and their health outcomes become worse.

Through IMPARTS (Integrating Mental and Physical Healthcare: Research, Training and Services), mental health professionals are working as part of physical health services at King’s Health Partners to make sure that all of a patient’s needs – both mind and body - are being met.

Patients in outpatient clinics at the hospitals use a tablet device to complete a simple survey designed to identify any psychological distress. The information is then made available immediately to the patient’s healthcare professional so any additional treatment or care needs can be discussed if required. After discussing the results, people will be offered choices for treating any mental health needs as appropriate. This may be further treatment from psychiatrists or psychologists embedded within the physical health service, or a referral to services such as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT).

Group with CogsIMPARTS is part of the King’s Health Partners Mind and Body programme which aims to join up physical and mental health care, research and education in southeast London.  As well as improving patient care, the programme aims to reduce some of the £8 billion spent nationally by the NHS each year treating the effects of poor mental health on physical illnesses.

Dr Sean Cross, Clinical Director of the King’s Health Partners Mind and Body Programme says:

We know that many people with long-term physical health conditions also suffer from anxiety and depression, and that when physical and mental ill-health are combined, all of a person’s health outcomes become worse. By identifying people with multiple health needs and providing them with more joined up care, we can start to improve the outcomes and experience of the care we provide. While we are making good early progress, our ultimate ambition is to be considering the mental health needs of every person that we see in our physical health services.

The Mind and Body programme is also working to address the physical health needs of people with mental illness. Nearly half of people with mental illness also have at least one long-term physical condition, and people with severe mental illness die an average of 15-20 years younger than those without, often as a result of poor physical health.