People with mental health conditions have a lower life expectancy and poorer physical health outcomes than the general population. Evidence suggests that this discrepancy is driven by a combination of clinical risk factors, socioeconomic factors and health system factors.
To explore current service provision and map the recent evidence on models of integrated care addressing the physical health needs of people with severe mental illness (SMI) primarily within the mental health service setting. The research was designed as a rapid review of published evidence from 2013–15, including an update of a comprehensive 2013 review, together with further grey literature and insights from an expert advisory group.
We conducted a narrative synthesis, using a guiding framework based on nine previously identified factors considered to be facilitators of good integrated care for people with mental health problems, supplemented by additional issues emerging from the evidence. Descriptive data were used to identify existing models, perceived facilitators and barriers to their implementation, and any areas for further research.
Findings and discussion
The synthesis incorporated 45 publications describing 36 separate approaches to integrated care, along with further information from the advisory group. Most service models were multicomponent programmes incorporating two or more of the nine factors: (1) information sharing systems; (2) shared protocols; (3) joint funding/commissioning; (4) colocated services; (5) multidisciplinary teams; (6) liaison services; (7) navigators; (8) research; and (9) reduction of stigma. Few of the identified examples were described in detail and fewer still were evaluated, raising questions about the replicability and generalisability of much of the existing evidence. However, some common themes did emerge from the evidence. Efforts to improve the physical health care of people with SMI should empower people (staff and service users) and help remove everyday barriers to delivering and accessing integrated care. In particular, there is a need for improved communication between professionals and better information technology to support them, greater clarity about who is responsible and accountable for physical health care, and awareness of the effects of stigmatisation on the wider culture and environment in which services are delivered.
Limitations and future work
The literature identified in the rapid review was limited in volume and often lacked the depth of description necessary to acquire new insights. All members of our advisory group were based in England, so this report has limited information on the NHS contexts specific to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A conventional systematic review of this topic would not appear to be appropriate in the immediate future, although a more interpretivist approach to exploring this literature might be feasible. Wherever possible, future evaluations should involve service users and be clear about which outcomes, facilitators and barriers are likely to be context-specific and which might be generalisable.
The research reported here was commissioned and funded by the Health Services and Delivery Research programme as part of a series of evidence syntheses under project number 13/05/11