The conditions of patients suffering from mental health issues in the UK deteriorated as the National Health Service (NHS) shifted the in-person care to telephone, video and text messages during the pandemic, according to a new study.
The study, led by researchers from the University College London (UCL), showed that many reported a lower quality of care, trouble accessing medication, had appointments cancelled or felt the loss of face-to-face help meant they “were missing out on care”, the Guardian reported.
For many patients, the switch to remote care heightened the isolation and loneliness they were already feeling because they could no longer see friends and family, said Brynmor Lloyd-Evans associate professor at the UCL.
“People with pre-existing mental health conditions experienced serious disruptions to their access to, and the quality of, mental healthcare as a result of the pandemic. The opportunities and challenges of remote mental health care were an important aspect of our findings,” Lloyd-Evans was quoted as saying.
“While for some people telephone and digital support provided continuity of care, for others there were issues around access to technology, maintaining therapeutic relationships remotely, and digital interfaces exacerbating difficult feelings or symptoms associated with their mental health,”Lloyd-Evans said.
The findings are published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
For the study, the team interviewed 49 people with a range of conditions, including mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as schizophrenia, psychosis and bi-polar disorder in London. The team found key issues included “inadequate access to mental health services, difficulties in day-to-day functioning” and “struggles with social connectedness”, the report said.
“For individual and group therapies, the quality of relational support provided through remote care felt less personal and connecting than face-to-face contact,” said Lloyd-Evans.
Some patients described their frustration at losing touch with fellow patients they had become friends with through attending group therapy sessions.