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March 16, 2016

Bringing together physical and mental health: A new frontier for integrated care

Region: Europe Implementation report Coordinating services within and across sectors Source: The King's Fund

In March 2016, the King’s Fund published a compelling case for this ‘new frontier’ for integration:physical and mental health. It gives service users’ perspectives on what integrated care would look like and highlights 10 areas that offer some of the biggest opportunities for improving the quality and controlling costs: 

  1. Incorporating mental health into public health programmes
  2. Promoting health among people with severe mental illnesses
  3. Improving management of medically unexplained symptoms in primary care
  4. Strengthening primary care for the physical health needs of people with severe mental illnesses
  5. Supporting the mental health of people with long-term conditions
  6. Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of carers
  7. Supporting mental health in acute hospitals
  8. Addressing physical health in mental health inpatient facilities
  9. Providing integrated support for perinatal mental health
  10. Supporting the mental health needs of people in residential homes

The key findings of this report are precisely that the efforts to develop integrated care should focus more on the integration of physical and mental health, addressing in particular four major challenges:

  • high rates of mental health conditions among people with long-term physical health problems
  • poor management of ‘medically unexplained symptoms’, which lack an identifiable organic cause
  • reduced life expectancy among people with the most severe forms of mental illness, largely attributable to poor physical health
  • limited support for the wider psychological aspects of physical health and illness.

The failure to address these issues have the consequences of increasing the cost of providing services and affecting outcomes for patients. Wider changes are needed to improve the achievements in bringing together mental and physical care at the clinical level, such as development and evaluation of new service models, changes to professional education and increased use of new payment systems and contracting models.

To download the full report, click here: Bringing together physical and mental health