Psoriasis care is failing patients

Release Date: 18 October 2012

Source: Mental Health Foundation

Country: United Kingdom

We have collaborated with the Psoriasis Association as part of the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign to produce a new report, ‘Recognising the life impact of psoriasis’. The report, released yesterday at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Paul Beresford MP, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Skin (Skin APPG), unveiled an urgent need for multi-disciplinary care for people suffering with psoriasis. Along with other leading experts, the collaboration calls for the impact of psoriasis on a person’s psychological wellbeing and overall quality of life, to be better recognised by politicians, the NHS and patients and their families. The See Psoriasis: Look Deeper initiative is funded by an educational grant from the global healthcare company Abbott.

Speaking to MPs from across the country, the collaboration together with patient groups and healthcare professionals, highlighted that the wider effects of psoriasis can go unrecognised by most. Psoriasis is estimated to effect up to 1.8 million people in the UK, ( what is.pdf) the multi-faceted nature of psoriasis means the psychological impact of the condition can be just as debilitating as the physical symptoms. Approximately one third of psoriasis patients experience depression and anxiety, with 1 in 10 admitting to contemplating suicide. However, healthcare professionals tend to focus on the physical symptoms and often overlook asking patients about their psychological wellbeing.

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: "The Mental Health Foundation has long called for the better integration of physical and mental health services. This includes routine assessment of the psychological needs of patients, in the light of the strong evidence of the inter-relationship and connection between physical health problems and mental health. It is essential that all staff supporting patients with a primary diagnosis of psoriasis are fully aware of the links between the two and are able to facilitate assessments and, where there is an assessed need, care and treatment that address all their health needs holistically".

Dr Christine Bundy, a member of the collaboration and Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Medicine at the University of Manchester says, “There is often a cyclical link between the physical and psychological impact of psoriasis. The condition can cause emotional distress and worry for sufferers which can trigger a psoriasis flare and impact on progression of psoriasis, so patients can often feel trapped in a despairing cycle as they try to cope with their condition. We need to do more to ensure we are looking out for psychological symptoms and providing people with the condition the full support they need to manage psoriasis.”

The ‘Recognising the life impact of psoriasis’ report outlines calls to action for policy makers, emphasising an essential need for:
• Financial levers and incentives for commissioners to be aligned to multidisciplinary working so that the physical and psychological nature of psoriasis is addressed
• The resources available through changes in the NHS to be used to improve the multidisciplinary care and treatment of people with psoriasis.

There is now more than ever, an opportunity to make a positive change for psoriasis patients via the NHS Commissioning Board’s guidance to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NICE clinical guidance and Quality Standards and CCG referral pathways. With the cost of mental health services currently reaching £6.6 billion – this is a figure that could be increased if psychological wellbeing of psoriasis patients is not addressed.

The campaign also asks people with psoriasis to talk to their healthcare professional about the emotional impact psoriasis may be having on them, and to insist on help and support when needed.

Helen McAteer from the Psoriasis Association said: ‘Most people assume psoriasis just affects a person physically, however the affect is much deeper for patients that live with the condition day-to-day. All too often we hear from patients who are struggling with the emotional impact of psoriasis but do not feel able to ask their doctor for help. Some patients suggest that their GPs regard psoriasis as a minor complaint and do not consider the emotional aspects. We need doctors to treat people with psoriasis holistically, recognising the impact the condition can have on one’s life, and we need patients to feel comfortable about proactively asking their doctors for help, knowing that they will be listened to.’

To support the launch of the report and the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign, patients were invited to submit a postcard addressed to their psoriasis to express how it impacts their daily lives and makes them feel. A creative display of the responses formed a central focus point at the launch event, demonstrating the support for the campaign and a need for change.

The See Psoriasis: Look Deeper collaboration believes that together we can work towards improved holistic care for psoriasis patients. We just need to see beyond the skin and look deeper into their needs.
The full ‘Recognising the life impact of psoriasis’ report can be found here