June 5, 2009

Those with mental problems get worse care

People with mental health problems receive inadequate medical care, researchers in British, New Zealand and United States said.

Dr. Alex Mitchell of the University of Leicester in England, Darren Malone of Lakes District Health Board in New Zealand and Caroline Carney Doebbeling of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis said medical care delivered across most branches of medicine to those with a mental health or substance abuse diagnosis is of inferior quality compared with the usual standard of care.

I work in liaison psychiatry and regularly see people who have received what they report as poor treatment by virtue of their mental illness, Mitchell said in a statement. Often there is a temptation for clinicians to attribute any physical symptom to the psychiatric diagnosis without necessarily assessing the person thoroughly.

The researchers based their analysis on 31 valid studies.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, also found inferior quality medical care did not depend on the presence of current psychiatric symptoms but rather was delivered to anyone with a previous or current mental health diagnosis.