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LTC patients 'more likely' to have mental health problems

Billions of pounds of NHS money is being squandered every year as 'systemic failings' impede clinicians' ability to spot mental health problems among patients with long-term health conditions.

A report by think-tank The King's Fund and the Centre for Mental Health found people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, are “two to three times” more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.

“Too often a mental health condition goes undetected where there is a co-existing long-term physical health condition,” says the report Long-term conditions and mental health: the cost of co-morbidities.

Co-existing mental health problems are said to exacerbate physical illnesses, which in turn drives up the cost of care.

Researchers place this extra financial burden at around £13bn every year - or £1 in every £8 spent on long-term conditions care.

Even in those instances where mental health problems are identified, the report notes the physical and mental illness have traditionally been treated separately.

The report says a more integrated model would bring costs down and improve outcomes.

“Failing to support the mental health of people with long-term physical conditions is costing the NHS billions of pounds at a time it can ill afford to spend money unwisely,” said Sean Duggan, Chief Executive for the Centre for Mental Health.

“Untreated or poorly managed mental ill-health among this group is cutting lives short, reducing quality of life and increasing health inequalities.

“Responding better, by contrast, will save lives, increase fairness and cut costs.”

Undetected mental health problems in patients with long-term conditions can also contribute to poorer clinical outcomes for patients and a lower quality of life. 

Question: Why do you think mental health problems among LTC patients often go undetected?