mental health

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Bringing together physical and mental health

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Getting the basics right:

integrated care from a

service user perspective

This section explores what an integrated approach towards mental and physical

health would look like from a service user perspective, and why it is needed. As part

of our research we conducted a series of focus groups and interviews with people

who have experienced concurrent and overlapping problems with their mental

and physical health. Through these methods, we involved around 40 people who

had experienced a diverse range of conditions. Physical health conditions included

cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. In terms of mental

health, participants’ experiences included various diagnoses such as depression,

anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and psychosis, as well as significant psychological

distress that may or may not have met formal diagnostic criteria. The focus groups

also included women who had experienced mental health problems during the

perinatal period, and people who had experience of caring for a family member

with co-morbid mental and physical health problems.

This component of our research was designed in collaboration with an external

steering group composed of people with lived experience of mental and physical

health problems, and carers. The steering group helped the research team to identify

areas to explore, contributed to draft versions of our interview schedule, and were

involved in discussions regarding emerging findings.

Experiences of care and support among focus group participants and interviewees

were highly variable, with some examples of excellent care in which support for

mental and physical health was successfully integrated. This highlights that there

is already good practice to build on. However, the balance of opinion among

participants suggested that this remains the exception rather than the norm, with

fragmented care being a common experience.

Getting the basics right: integrated care from a service user perspective 12

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