How can pharma help the NHS drive much-needed change in mental health services?
Laurence Mascarenhas, of Wilmington Healthcare, assesses how pharma can help the NHS to achieve Parity of Esteem (PoE) in mental health
One in four British adults will suffer at least one mental health
disorder in any given year; 1.2m people in England have a learning disability
and more than one million people will have dementia by 2021.* However, despite
the prevalence of mental health problems, only a quarter of people with illnesses,
such as depression, are receiving treatment, according to NHS England.
Tackling the issues that lie behind these statistics
and ensuring that mental health is given the same priority as physical health
is now a key Government priority, driven by NHS England’s Parity of Esteem
(PoE) Programme. The PoE programme aims to achieve this through prevention,
early intervention, access to crisis care on a 24/7 basis and better
integration of mental and physical healthcare.
What are the key barriers to
is still a lot of stigma attached to mental health problems and although the
situation is slowly improving, many people refuse to seek help for
fear of discrimination at home and at work.
individuals do visit their GP, opportunities to refer them on to appropriate care
are often missed because many GPs have a limited understanding of the
complexity of mental health and they may also be unaware of the services
available in their local area.
Furthermore, while it is widely accepted that physical
and mental health problems often go hand in hand, they tend to be treated in isolation
by healthcare professionals. The fact that the police, Social Services, mental
health and other NHS services work in isolation is also a problem.
Changes that could help
to achieve PoE Early
intervention is key and GPs should be looking to refer patients to services
such as Improving Access to
Psychological Therapies (IAPTs) - a 16-week programme designed for people
with anxiety and depression that can be accessed via all mental health trusts
one GP in each practice held a specific qualification, such as a mental health
diploma, this could dramatically increase the number of patients diagnosed
within primary care and referred to appropriate services.
more integrated approach is needed for mental and physical healthcare. This
would see, for example, those with long-term physical health problems getting
regular reviews of their mental health, and people with mental health issues receiving
appropriate intervention and support to address associated physical health risk
up working between the NHS, police and Social Services is essential, and there should
also be a greater emphasis on rehabilitation; Recovery Colleges should be a key
part of the patient pathway to help people get back on track and promote
How can pharma help?
There is a big role for pharma in funding
research and conducting clinical trials to further explore the side effects of
drugs which are used for conditions, ranging from diabetes to dementia, and are
known to cause psychosis.
The cash-strapped NHS has a culture of
prescribing the cheapest drugs. Pharma needs to convince commissioners and providers
of the value of mental health drugs, which may be more expensive to buy, but
will save money in the long-run because they are more effective. Pharma can also provide support with
adherence by making medicines and the administration of them more user-friendly.
could also offer training for care workers to help ensure that people with mental
health conditions take their medicines as prescribed.
is also key. By analysing the wealth of patient data that already exists, such
as Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES) data and Mental Health and Learning
Disabilities Data, pharma can identify important trends, gaps and needs that
will lead to significant improvements in patient care.
Conclusion To help improve treatments and outcomes in
mental health, pharma could: fund research and conduct
clinical trials to further explore the side effects of drugs; educate
commissioners and providers on the efficacy and long-term savings that can be
generated from specific drugs, and provide support on adherence. In addition, the industry can harness the power of data to help
the NHS identify trends and opportunities to make a real difference to patient
care and outcomes.