Editorial

Time to break out of our silos

Physical health care never goes off the agenda for mental health nurses, and there is now even more evidence about how important it is to address the physical health needs of service users.

Physical health care never goes off the agenda for mental health nurses, and there is now even more evidence about how important it is to address the physical health needs of service users.

Research by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation indicates that routine care for physical health conditions is failing people with mental health problems, many of whom are being admitted to hospital in emergencies rather than in planned ways.

If someone attends a clinic to be treated for bipolar disorder, there is no excuse for failing to treat their hypertension at the same time

It is more of the same, I’m afraid: people with mental health problems have worse physical health than the general population, and it looks like their health care is of poorer quality.

We know that service users die younger than the rest of the population – on average by between ten and 17 years younger – and we know that this is a scandal. But solving the problem is not going to be easy.

The researchers say that the way forward is to stop treating people in silos. For example, if someone attends a clinic to be treated for bipolar disorder, there is no excuse for failing to treat their hypertension at the same time.

Similarly, a patient with cancer who is also depressed should be able to access appropriate treatment for their physical and mental health needs at the same time. Until this happens, people with mental health problems will continue to suffer chronic ill health and will die too young.

It is time to break out of the silos and break down the barriers to truly holistic care. If we don’t, it will be too late for too many people.

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