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Psychologists contribute to new guide on medically unexplained symptoms

20 February 2017

The Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health (JCP-MH) has published a guide for the commissioners of services for people with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS).

‘MUS’ refers to persistent bodily complaints for which examination does not reveal sufficiently explanatory structural or other pathology. The term is commonly used to describe people presenting with pain, discomfort, fatigue and a variety of other symptoms in general practice and specialist care.

The guide:

  • describes MUS and the associated outcomes
  • outlines current service provision for MUS and detail the components of a high quality comprehensive MUS service, and
  • highlights the importance of commissioning comprehensive MUS services.

It can be downloaded from the JCP-MH website.

The JCPMH is a collaboration between 17 organisations, including the British Psychological Society, that inspires commissioners to improve mental health and wellbeing, using a values-based commissioning model.

Dr Ian Gargan, who as chair of our Professional Practice Board led the Society’s contribution to this guide, said:

"Ten main points reflect the succinctness of the report which highlights that little evidence is available to understand what ‘works’ to treat individuals with MUS, which are constituents to a plethora  of conditions, syndromes and pathologies.

"Psychology plays a pivotal part in the assessment and treatment of MUS but also to educate other members of the multidisciplinary team about the needs of each individual.

"Attitudes to MUS are mainly negative with respect to substantiating patient presentations, validating the individual challenges and offering effective treatment modalities. This needs to change at undergraduate level, the earliest opportunity to educate medical and paramedical health professionals.

"This report reinforces how psychologists have a significant responsibility to develop the necessary skills to address the needs of this significant cohort of patients and the impact of MUS on them, their immediate environment and every community."

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