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Expansion of mental health support for those with a long-term health condition

An additional £2.6 million is set to be invested in improving access for people living with a long-term physical health condition (LTC) to treatment for depression and anxiety-based disorders.

Funding for the expansion of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service was agreed this week by the governing bodies of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. 
With an estimated 40% of people with depression and anxiety disorder also having an LTC the initiative will initially target those living with diabetes, chronic heart disease and COPD - and aims to deliver a better co-ordinated approach to physical and mental health care. 

The IAPT service in east and west Suffolk is delivered by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. The new funding will enable the recruitment of 43 new staff including cognitive behavioural therapists and psychological wellbeing practitioners. These new practitioners will be based in healthcare settings across the patch, including in GP practices, community health centres and hospitals, with LTC patients experiencing depression or anxiety able to refer themselves or be referred by their usual healthcare professional to dedicated IAPT support.

Dr John Hague, a GP in Ipswich and mental health lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “As new evidence continues to support the better integration of physical and mental health care services, this focus on mental wellbeing provision for those with a long-term health condition is an important step forward in treating a person’s mental and physical health as one.

“Those with a long-term health condition are more likely to have a mental health issue than the general population.  If their mental health condition is left untreated there is evidence to show it will very likely adversely affect their physical health.

“By helping these people access the support and treatment they need we can not only improve their physical and mental wellbeing and quality of life, but also reduce the number of hospital admissions and healthcare interventions and ease the pressure on our already over-burdened NHS staff and finances.”

Nesta Reeve, Clinical Lead for Wellbeing Suffolk, said: “We are really pleased to have the go-ahead to start to recruit staff to build an expanded service with the aim that in time whenever people are identified as having a long-term physical condition their emotional needs will be met alongside their physical needs. 

“This will be part of a whole system change to how we work in Suffolk, involving a more collaborative approach to healthcare, providing a joined up approach to care so people feel they can manage well both physically and emotionally with their long-term physical condition.”

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