Health psychology and long-term conditions

If the government’s proposed strategy for helping people with long-term health conditions is to be a success then there will need to be more health psychologists and vastly enhanced training in psychological skills and interventions in the wider healthcare workforce.

That is the conclusion of the Society’s response to the government’s consultation on developing a cross-departmental strategy aimed at helping prevent or delay long-term conditions and improving the quality of life and independence of people who suffer from them.

The Society response says that a large number of psychologically focused research programmes have provided strong evidence that rehabilitation and secondary prevention services containing integrated and mapped psychological interventions report improved outcomes, across domains, for people who have a long-term condition.

Psychological interventions ranging from support and information, advocacy, guided self-help or individual or group-based cognitive behaviour therapy could improve health outcomes through:

improving communication

enhancing concordance with recommended treatments

improving health behaviours (e.g. quitting smoking, healthy diet, regular exercise)

improving symptom management

treating depression and anxiety and improving psychological well-being

reducing disability and enhancing quality of life in LTCs

providing appropriate support to carers 

However, says the response, despite this robust evidence of the effectiveness of integrated psychological services, routine hospital and community management often lacks any psychological framework to guide care.