Repairing fractured care – the link between mental and physical health

Nowadays there’s a specialist for everything. Heads, shoulders, knees and toes. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s so important to have health care practitioner’s as experts in certain fields because let’s face it, you can’t be a master of all trades. But what is becoming ever more apparent is that many physical and mental illnesses are not isolated illnesses. Our recent whitepaper discusses the root causes of this by analysing the culture within the NHS and how it can impact patient safety.

We have seen a call for ‘more integrated services’ from NHS England to overcome a ‘fractured care’ system. Patients are now reporting multiple conditions to GPs with significant crossovers between mental and physical health.

We know that the two are correlated. Studies suggest depression symptoms such as anxiety and fatigue are strong predictors of heart disease – as much as obesity or high cholesterol. On the flip side, we see nearly 30% of people with long-term physical health conditions with mental health conditions too, such as depression or anxiety. Prescribing care for mental illness is significantly more complicated and time consuming than that of a broken bone. Not only this, the conditions of mental illness are extremely abstract to understand and delicate to repair. Both urgently need to be viewed as equally damaging to health, and as directly related to one another.

Repairing the fractured care

Not an easy task… currently GPs have on average 12 minutes consultation time with patients. In that amount of time, do you think you could figure out if: someone that is suffering from a cardiovascular or coronary heart disease has exacerbated, or caused, their diagnoses, due to lifestyle choices. And, albeit unknown to them, these choices being made could be due to undiagnosed anxiety or depression, thus, are ill-equipped to make the right lifestyle choices in the first place. Or worse yet, they are so ill that they are unable to even identify what’s wrong, and what the right choices are.

Killer broccoli

It’s impossible! Such a mammoth task is put on GPs to profile patients in minimal time to understand them, and it’s simply not working. You might say it’s up to the individual to take control of their health. And yes, your body should be a temple that you worship and care for… but how? Look around. Nutritionists, newspapers, magazines… one minute broccoli is the cure to everything next thing you know it could cause cancer. It can’t by the way, that article simply highlights how if you look at something in a specific way, EVEN broccoli could cause cancer.

Seeing the stems for the florets?

Ok, maybe the analogy isn’t great, but hopefully you get the idea. For the NHS and organisations alike, recognising mental health issues when someone comes in who is suffering from diabetes is challenging. Plus, it is not top priority – prescribing care for the diabetes is. But now we are becoming aware the two are linked, we can begin to recognise patterns.
We are working to develop our CARI Wellbeing tool to support the NHS and its patients, joining the dots between disparate pieces of research. Our key objectives fall into 3 interrelated areas:

1. Patients – Increasing engagement with their mental health and providing means to empowerment when discussing their wellbeing. Presenting patients with first stage support options to understand and improve their wellbeing levels;
2. GPs – risk assessment of early onset mental health issues / focused mental health consultations with graphic representations of patient’s health trends;
3. National – evidence-base for early onset mental health interventions, benchmarking/sharing of best practice

We are working meticulously to develop its application throughout the NHS to start providing rapid, enjoyable and empowering solutions to wellbeing and mental health. We’ve seen huge transformations so far with employees of Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust as reported by the BBC. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more how CARI can improve your organisations wellbeing.

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