• Nearly 50% of people with a mental illness also have a long-term physical condition

  • Co-morbid psychological and physical problems are common, but often treated separately

  • The King's Health Partners Mind & Body Programme seeks to integrate physical and mental healthcare

Our mental and physical health are inseparable. Mental and physical health conditions are often connected and when these health problems are combined, people are less able to manage and their health outcomes can become worse.

Despite this, our health and care services have been designed to be delivered separately.

The purpose of the King’s Health Partners Mind & Body Programme is to better integrate physical and mental healthcare and shape services that provide health and wellbeing for all.

Evidence shows that by joining up physical and mental healthcare, we can help someone to manage their different conditions, improve their health outcomes, and even prevent unnecessary health problems for some people by identifying risk early.

This really affects patient outcomes. Nearly half of people with mental illness also have at least one long-term physical condition. Around a third of those with long-term physical conditions will also suffer from depression or anxiety. The presence of one or more concurrent conditions, often results in worse outcomes for the patient and increased contact with the healthcare system.

This inequality deepens when you consider that the average life expectancy for someone with a long-term mental health illness or learning disability is 15- 20 years shorter than for someone without. However, due to the way our healthcare systems are set up, patients are often treated in separate settings for physical and mental illnesses, resulting in the fragmented provision of care.

There is more and more evidence highlighting the importance of developing coordinated whole-person care for people with long-term conditions.

Take these two real life case studies from South London. Derek, aged 90, has prostate cancer, diabetes and depression, while Margie, aged 79, has diabetes, high cholesterol, breathing difficulties, and severe depression. Both Derek’s and Margie’s wellbeing had been affected by life events, such as the illness and absence of a loved one, or strained relationships within their family, leading to a total lack of support. Furthermore, both Derek and Margie were reluctant to seek help for their mental health problems.

Individuals like these are not the exception; they are fast becoming the norm. They demonstrate the complex interplay between physical, mental and social dimensions to an individual’s ill-health and potential recovery. Delivering mind and body care seeks not only to improve overall wellbeing for patients such as Derek and Margie, but crucially wellbeing as personally defined by them, which is in turn reflected in better health outcomes.

How do we achieve value through integrated mind and body care?

We define value as outcomes that matter to patients, service users and carers over the costs of achieving those outcomes, across the complete pathway of care.

Missed co-morbidities such as Margie’s and Derek’s come at a high cost - financially, individually and to society. According to a report by The King’s Fund, between 12% and 18% of all NHS expenditure is linked to poor mental health, most commonly in the form of depression or anxiety disorders, which if left untreated can significantly exacerbate physical illness and drive up the costs of care.

Perhaps most importantly, failing to spot co-morbidities such as cancer with depression, can come at a huge individual cost to the patient, who may be seeing healthcare professionals in different settings, with little understanding of how these illnesses could be interacting with each other.

Recent research has shown that 60% of patients seen at our mental health trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, were also seen at least once at our physical health trusts, Guy’s and St Thomas’ or King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts over the course of a year.

Failing to better integrate mental and physical healthcare would mean failing our patients. That’s why across our range of programmes, King’s Health Partners Mind & Body programme committed to joining up mental and physical healthcare, training and research to improve health outcomes for our patients and service users.

And an equally core component is helping staff to manage their own health and wellbeing: we now have a free to download Mind and Body Health and Wellbeing Toolkit with tips and ideas developed by Mind & Body Champions. It also includes stress awareness workshops exploring practical approaches to stress relief.

Remember to take care of both your mind and body.

Further reading

New study reveals the life-changing impact of an accident

What's the tension in your body trying to tell you?

Energy psychology and the mind-body connection

How your body tells the story of your life

Beyond words: working non-verbally in psychotherapy