General News — 08 May 2014
Mental health patients struggle to get physical health concerns heard

People with a mental illness or intellectual disability invariably find their physical health problems under-addressed, a report by the British Medical Association has claimed.

People with a mental illness or learning disability are more likely to find their physical health problems neglected, leading to higher rates of excess mortality, a British Medical Association (BMA) report has said.

Highlighting the troubled state of physical and mental health care integration, the report warns that up to 60 per cent of excess deaths occurring for those with mental health problems are caused by physical conditions. The figures are similarly dire for people with intellectual disabilities.bigstockphoto_Severe_Depression_3067531

“It is deeply concerning that mental health in the UK is not universally held in the same regard as patients’ physical health, nor does it receive comparable levels of funding”, Professor Sheila Hollins, from the BMA’s Board of Science, explained.

“There would be an outcry if patients with a physical illness were denied treatment or care due to cuts in funding, yet this is what we are seeing for those patients suffering from mental illness”.

1,711 mental health beds have been lost since April 2011, whilst therapy sessions are limited to a short course of 20. The report recommends that mental health and intellectual disability liaison services be made available in every hospital to address this undervalued aspect of care.

Conversely, the report also urges the NHS to employ a physician in psychiatric wards, to meet the physical health needs of those with mental illness.

Professor Hollins added: “In order to address this problem it is vital that we stop emphasising one or the other, and ensure that equal value is placed on both mental and physical health, particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.”

This article first appeared on Information Daily on 6 May, 2014.

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