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Exploring Access to Mental Health and Primary Care Services for People With Severe Mental Illness During the COVID-19 Restrictions

Newbronner, E., Spanakis, P., Wadman, R. , Crosland, S., Heron, P., Johnston, G., Walker, L. ORCID: 0000-0003-2459-7860, Gilbody, S. & Peckham, E. (2022). Exploring Access to Mental Health and Primary Care Services for People With Severe Mental Illness During the COVID-19 Restrictions. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, article number 799885. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.799885


Aims: To explore: how satisfied people with severe mental illness (SMI) are with the support received during the pandemic; understand any difficulties encountered when accessing both mental health and primary care services; consider ways to mitigate these difficulties; and assess the perceived need for future support from mental health services.

Materials and Methods: A representative sample was drawn from a large transdiagnostic clinical cohort of people with SMI, which was recruited between April 2016 and March 2020. The sample was re-surveyed a few months after the beginning of the restrictions. Descriptive frequency statistics were used to analyze the quantitative data. The free text responses were analyzed thematically.

Results: 367 participants responded to the survey. Two thirds were receiving support from mental health services with the rest supported in primary care or self-managing. A quarter thought they would need more mental health support in the coming year. Half had needed to used community mental health services during the pandemic and the majority had been able to get support. A minority reported that their mental health had deteriorated but they had either not got the supported they wanted or had not sought help. The biggest service change was the reduction in face-to-face appointments and increasing use of phone and video call support. Nearly half of those using mental health services found this change acceptable or even preferred it. However, acceptability was influenced by several factors, and participants were more likely to report that they had received all the support they needed, when seen in person.

Discussion: Although most participants were satisfied with the mental health support they had received, a minority were not. This, couple with findings on future need for mental health support has implications for post pandemic demand on services. Remote care has brought benefits but also risks that it could increase inequalities in access to services.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2022 Newbronner, Spanakis, Wadman, Crosland, Heron, Johnston, Walker, Gilbody and Peckham. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: health services, severe mental ill health, schizoaffecfive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, COVID-19, mental health services
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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