Physical health support for patients in mental health wards

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is piloting a virtual physical health clinic, providing physical health advice for inpatient wards during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Matthew Farrand · June 19, 2020

The Mind & Body programme, Integrating our Mental and Physical Healthcare Systems (IMPHS) Project, funded by the Maudsley Charity, is making additional physical health support available to inpatient wards at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) in response to COVID-19. In collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups, the project aims to improve support for physical health issues in mental health inpatient settings.

People with severe mental illness (SMI) have high rates of multi-morbidity, with the most common co-morbid conditions being those known to affect outcomes of COVID-19, such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. SLaM has a high proportion of patients who fall into particularly vulnerable groups, requiring shielding. Timely access to general physical health advice is especially critical during the pandemic; it helps to avoid deterioration in long-term conditions and to manage acute medical issues.

Physical health support will be rolled out in two ways:

Virtual Physical Health Clinic

A weekly virtual physical health clinic providing virtual appointments with a consultant and an advanced nurse practitioner from King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust via phone, email or video. Appointments will be made available in SLaM inpatient wards to support non-acute, long-term condition management and non-COVID medical issues.

The purpose of this additional physical health advice is to support SLaM staff to provide optimal care in situ, minimise unnecessary acute hospital attendance and appropriately signpost people in need through the relevant COVID-19 care pathways.

Consultant Connect for physical health

Consultant Connect offers clinician-to-consultant advice on physical health matters. Consultants, from a range of physical health specialties from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, share advice with clinicians at SLaM via an app on a phone or tablet, or over the phone, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

This service, previously made available by the Clinical Commissioning Groups across south London, has been extended to inpatient wards across SLaM to expand access to specialist services and advice.

With support from the King’s College London Centre for Implementation Science, the IMPHS project team will evaluate both the Virtual Physical Health Clinic and Consultant Connect to ensure that these services meet physical health demands across the Trust.

Talking about these two new initiatives, Dr Shubulade Smith, consultant psychiatrist and clinical director of forensic services for South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and the co-chair of the Pan-London physical health leads network, said:

We are delighted that this initiative is happening. This will support us at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to provide much needed quality physical healthcare for people with SMI. It will allow speedier access to the best physical health advice and care from the right people, in the right place, at the right time and improve overall outcomes in the longer term for all our patients.