Mental illness is missed in a quarter of patients admitted to hospital, research suggests

Mental illness is being missed by the NHS in a quarter of patients admitted to hospital, research from University College London has suggested.

The data analysed by UCL scientists indicates that ethnic minority groups are more likely to have their previously diagnosed mental illnesses go unnoticed by doctors.

Researchers say that their findings show that the problem was even worse over the past decade, with data from 2006 showing that severe mental health diagnoses were missed in more than 50 per cent of cases.

Hassan Mansour, of UCL Psychiatry, who led the study, said: “When someone is admitted to hospital, it’s important that the medical staff are aware of their other conditions, as these might affect what treatments are best for them, in order to provide holistic care.

“We found encouraging signs that clinicians are more frequently identifying severe mental illnesses in hospital patients than they were a decade ago, but there’s a lot more that can be done, particularly to address disparities between ethnic groups, to ensure that everyone gets the best care available.”

The research, published in the Plos Medicine journal, looked at more than 45,000 emergency hospital admissions for people with severe mental illnesses between 2006 and 2017.

Looking at nearly 14,000 adults they found that mental health problems were only recorded in only 48 per cent of the admissions for these patients in 2006. By 2017 this had risen to 75 per cent.

The scientists said that this improvement in spotting mental illness in patients may have been down to “NHS commitments towards whole person-centred care, financial incentives, improvements in coding practices, or expansions of liaison psychiatric services in hospitals.”

On average across the period of the study, mental illnesses were recorded during admission around 70 per cent of the time.

However, the researchers also found that often doctors did not diagnose specific conditions despite patients showing symptoms of mental illness.

Schizophrenia was only recorded 56 per cent of the time people with the condition were assessed, whereas those with bipolar disorder were only diagnosed half the time.

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