19. June 2012 13:45
NHS investment in treating mental illness could save far more money spent on treating linked physical illness, according to the London School of Economics.
The report How Mental Illness Loses Out In the NHS says the NHS spends at least £10bn per year in treating physical illnesses that could be prevented by low-cost psychological therapies.
The LSE’s Mental Health Policy Group concludes that under-treatment of severe mental illness is “the most glaring example of health inequality” in the UK.
A 2007 survey showed that only 24% of people with depression and anxiety disorders were receiving treatment – and only 2% were receiving CBT, the main NICE-recommended treatment.
The report places more emphasis on CBT and related therapies than on drugs, because they are cheaper and have been shown to achieve similar (but more lasting) outcomes.
Drawing on evidence that CBT is cost-effective in managing long-term physical conditions such as COPD and heart disease, the report argues that psychological therapies need to play a stronger role in general healthcare.
It recommends integration of this perspective into the NHS Outcomes Framework, as well as expansion of the existing NHS Improved Access to Psychological Therapy programme.
The BMA commented that it was “concerned about the poor physical health and early death of many with serious mental health problems” and viewed the report as an “excellent starting point” for work to address that “major inequity”.