mental health

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Bringing together physical and mental health

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Although the needs and experiences of the people involved in our research were

highly diverse, our analysis identified several common themes (see Table 1).

We were struck by the observation that these often related to ‘getting the basics

right’ rather than (or in addition to) the need for service redesign or structural

solutions. The common themes also tended to have broader relevance to all forms

of integrated care, but with particular features that are important in relation to

integration of physical and mental health.

Table 1 Key elements of integrated care from a service user perspective

Professional attributes

System attributes

Role of service users/carers

• Taking a ‘whole person’ perspective

• Communication and consultation skills

• Co-ordination of care

• Proactive care

• Peer support and self-management

• Support for family and carers

Taking a ‘whole person’ perspective

If I go to see someone about my eyes, my eyes are what I am and the rest of me

doesn’t matter. It’s the same with mental health. If I go to see someone for a

mental health problem, I am a mental health problem.

Focus group participant

Perhaps more than anything else, integrated working requires a mindset whereby

health and care professionals see the fundamental purpose of their role as being

to support improvements in both the mental and physical health of the people

they work with. Participants in our research commonly described being seen as

‘a heart patient rather than a whole person’ (for example). The danger in having

a rigid demarcation between ‘mental health professionals’ and ‘physical health

professionals’ is that it creates a diminished sense of responsibility and means that

opportunities to improve outcomes are missed. Importantly, participants stressed

that this does not imply that all professionals need to become ‘experts in everything’.

However, it does mean that anyone working in health and social care needs to have

the following:

Getting the basics right: integrated care from a service user perspective 13

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