Warning over ‘neglected’ elderly mental health services

The president elect of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned mental health services for older people are being “neglected” and she will make a priority for the college.

In an interview with HSJ, Wendy Burn said while a lot of good work had been done with older patients with dementia, those with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety needed more specialist support.

Dr Burn, a consultant old age psychiatrist, was elected as the college’s 15th president in January and will succeed Professor Sir Simon Wessely in June for a three year term.

She said older people have massive mental health needs that require specialist rather than general interventions.

She added: “My patients are in and out of hospital the whole time. They have massive mental health needs. They are a different group. People talk about the frail elderly – the system isn’t really set up for them.

“It has been neglected, there’s a lot of good work that has been done on dementia and it has improved massively, we need to relook at depression in the elderly.”

Dr Burn said when talking therapies are provided for all age groups, older patients do not get the specialist support they could benefit from.

While the mental health taskforce recommended a new CQUIN payment to “improve the recognition and treatment of depression in older people”, there are no plans for this to be implemented.

Full story Health Service Journal, 14 March 2017