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In brief: Homelessness, inflammation, internet-based therapy, and more

An image of a homeless person on the street
Ev | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Huge spike in mental health needs reported by homelessness charities

Homelessness services are reporting an increase in the number of people they support who are being left on long waiting lists for appropriate mental health treatment.

NHS waiting times for elective mental health treatment have risen significantly, with data from June 2023 showing that individuals on waiting lists had waited an average of 12 weeks, compared with 9.1 weeks in June 2022 and 6.1 weeks in June 2021.

Homeless Link, a trade body, collected data from 295 homelessness services, revealing that 81% of services supported people with mental health needs in 2022, down from 97% in 2021 but still double the pre-pandemic baseline of 40%.

The survey also found that 90% of respondents faced barriers in accessing mental health services for those they support, with 100% of respondents in the North East reporting this issue.

Graeme McRobbie, who has been homeless for two years in Newcastle, said: “In the Newcastle area when you’re trying to get support it’s ridiculous because of how many budget cuts there have been.

"And it’s harder and harder to get appointments to see workers because they haven’t got enough money to help everybody… It’s getting really, really bad. Even to see your doctor now it’s three weeks.”

‘Over 5.4 million hours’ spent waiting in A&E for mental health treatment in England

Patients in England waited for over 5.4 million hours in A&E while experiencing a mental health crisis during the 2022/23 financial year, according to data obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

The research included information on the longest waiting times for adult and child mental health patients since 2010.

One patient at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust waited 278 hours (12 days) last year.

Among child patients, the longest wait was 208 hours (nine days) at James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Norfolk.

Over 450,000 people unable to work long-term last year due to their mental health

An analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures has revealed that more than 450,000 people were off work long-term due to a mental illness last year in England.

The North West had the highest number of long-term sick individuals with a mental health condition at 86,000, followed by London at 57,000, and the West Midlands at 53,000.

The age group with the most people long-term sick due to mental illness was 50–64-year-olds at 174,000, followed by 35–49, at 125,000, and 25–34, with 92,000.

The data included those who were economically inactive due to long-term sickness and reported various mental health issues.

Depression associated with inflammation pre- and post-bariatric operation in obese patients

New research has discovered a link between higher levels of inflammation in the blood of patients with obesity undergoing bariatric surgery and poorer weight loss six months after the procedure.

Led by King's College London, this is the first study to explore the connections between depression and inflammation in obese patients before and after bariatric surgery.

The study found that bariatric surgery resulted in weight loss for all patients as expected. A significant number of patients who had previously experienced depression before the surgery also saw an improvement in their symptoms to the point where they were no longer classified as clinically depressed.

Overall, there was a strong relationship between depression and inflammation in obese patients both before and after surgery, suggesting that increased inflammation, rather than depression, was associated with poor weight loss after bariatric surgery.

Internet-delivered therapy equally as effective as standard care

Internet-delivered text-based therapies can offer benefits such as shorter waiting times and treatment durations compared with traditional mental health services, according to a new study.

Text-based therapies are administered online, requiring patients to respond to a series of questions by typing out their answers, with a professional therapist providing support through this digital communication.

The study analysed data from 27,540 patients using NHS services in England for primary diagnoses of depression or anxiety.

Health economic models were developed to consider various costs associated with different severity levels of these conditions.

The results suggest that the key cost drivers are treatment effectiveness, the duration from referral to the end of treatment, and treatment-associated expenses.

The researchers highlighted that while there is no one-size-fits-all approach, having data available to determine whether internet-delivered text therapies are effective for an individual could lead to an estimated annual savings of approximately £600 million for individuals experiencing varying levels of anxiety and depression severity.


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