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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Mental health staff spending 'precious clinical time' helping with wider problems

Written by Ella Pickover

Mental health workers are spending "precious clinical time" helping patients deal with wider problems such as filling in benefits forms or calling energy providers, finance champion Martin Lewis has said.

The Money and Mental Health Institute, founded by Mr Lewis (pictured), said mental health workers are being forced to deal with practical tasks before being able to help their patients with their illnesses.

Tasks include giving practical advice about budgeting and managing debts, making telephone calls or writing letters to creditors, and advice about housing.

The comments come as a new report from Citizens Advice shows that people with mental health problems are more likely to have multiple issues to deal with than those who do not.

On average, people with mental health issues seeking advice from the charity have five practical problems including debts , housing and benefits.

People without mental health problems sought help for an average of 3.5 issues.

Meanwhile, the number of Citizens Advice clients reporting a mental health problem in England has increased by 9% in the past year, the charity said.

It's report calls on ministers to integrate practical support with services commonly used by people with mental health problems.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Complex issues like managing debts or dealing with employment problems can be so much harder to cope with if you have a mental health problem, but left unaddressed they can undermine treatment and make it harder to recover - creating a vicious cycle that is incredibly difficult to escape from.

"Practical advice and support can be invaluable to people's financial and mental wellbeing, but this burden should not fall on mental health professionals who are already overstretched."

Mr Lewis said: "Financial worries can hugely exacerbate mental health conditions and vice versa - the two are often intrinsically linked.

"Yet we're all too aware that the NHS has only limited resources. Specialist mental health professionals spending precious clinical time on practical tasks, like filling in benefits forms or calling energy providers, is a waste of those resources.

"It's understandable though. Often people with nowhere else to turn in a crisis - such as when they've not received their benefits, or the bailiffs are on the phone - get in touch with their compassionate mental health professional, who feels duty-bound to help."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Matthews / PA Wire.