In a study conducted at Barts Health NHS Trust and East London Foundation Trust, clinicians have revealed the significant potential of mental health treatment in reducing hospital admissions and the time spent in hospital for severe diabetes patients. This trial draws attention to the symbiotic relationship between physical health and mental wellbeing.
The trial's results demonstrate a 20% fall in admissions among those at high risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and a 50% reduction in bed days, saving an estimated 125 bed days and more than £159,000 over a 12-month period.
But what does this mean for the future of mental health care within the NHS? And how can this practice be adopted more widely?
The Society's Direct Access to Counselling Campaign offers an insight into how such integration might be achieved. The campaign emphasises the importance of early intervention and easy access to counselling services, focusing on prevention and holistic care.
For many patients with chronic conditions like Type 1 diabetes, the emotional burden can be overwhelming, leading to a phenomenon known as "diabetes distress". This distress, which includes anxiety and depression, can further exacerbate the physical symptoms of the disease, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
By offering direct access to counselling and psychotherapy without the need for a GP referral, the NCPS' campaign seeks to break down the barriers that often prevent people from seeking help. The initiative aligns with the trial's call for better coordination between mental health and diabetes care.
Dr Chris Garrett, who led the trial, emphasises that the connection between mental wellbeing and physical health is bidirectional. "If your glucoses are high, it impacts your concentration and your mood. The same can apply in the other direction: if you feel low for a while it can affect how you look after your diabetes."
The integration of mental health treatment into diabetes care could be a model for other chronic conditions, where mental health often plays an under-acknowledged role, such as within cancers, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal issues. The results from this trial not only provide economic justification but also highlight the human impact, enhancing the quality of life for those living with chronic diseases.
The NCPS is actively working to make mental health services more accessible to those in need, and reduce the current systemic mental health inequalities. The push for better coordination and integration, as exemplified by the trial, represents a promising step towards a healthcare system that recognises the intrinsic connection between body and mind.