Research conducted by Bipolar UK has revealed the healthcare system in the UK is failing the millions of people affected by bipolar, resulting in an average diagnosis delay of 9.5 years and inconsistent care.
Working alongside The Bipolar Commission, a group of 26 world-leading experts with academic, clinical and lived experience of bipolar, Bipolar UK has today taken urgent recommendations to the House of Commons calling for an immediate restructure to readdress systemic flaws that are failing patients across the UK.
The report, which was based on an 18-month programme of interviews, surveys and desktop research, highlighted two fundamental changes to reduce diagnosis time and deliver a greater continuity of care that would lead to a better quality of life for those living with bipolar, a reduction in bipolar-related suicides and a reduced financial burden on UK taxpayers.
To reduce diagnosis times, experts are imploring policymakers to ingrain bipolar screening across primary and secondary services and introduce specialist training across the NHS to increase the accuracy of diagnosis, adding to significant delays.
Once diagnosed, experts from the bipolar community advocate appointing a new national clinical director of mood disorders to ensure that everyone with bipolar has access to a 12-week psychoeducation course and a clinician who specialises in bipolar to oversee all prescriptions, medication changes and ongoing care.
Speaking about the Bipolar Commission, CEO of Bipolar UK, Simon Kitchen, said: ‘Leading experts around the UK are asking policy makers to act urgently, focussing on quicker diagnosis through specialist front line medical training and easier access to consistent care for people with bipolar.’
‘Continuity of care is the bedrock of this model, with strong long-term relationships between individual clinicians and patients a critical factor. There are currently not enough specialists in bipolar in the UK, which means that the symptoms are often missed.’
‘People living with bipolar have a suicide risk that’s 20 times higher than people without bipolar. These changes will improve the quality of life for the million-plus people with bipolar in the UK, and they will literally save lives.’
Bipolar is a severe mental illness characterised by significant and sometimes extreme changes in mood and energy, which go far beyond most people’s experiences of feeling a bit down or happy.
There are more than a million people with bipolar in the UK, 30% more than those with dementia and twice as many as those with schizophrenia. Millions more are impacted through close friends and family.
CEO of Bipolar UK, Simon Kitchen, added: ‘The report suggests that to make a huge initial impact, a re-allocation of the already available funding will significantly improve people’s lives.’
‘Having access to a clinician who knows them, their symptoms, their triggers, medical history, their family situation and their living arrangements is vital to ensure ongoing, effective care and the chance to live well with bipolar.’
This is what the Bipolar Commission’s report means to two people living with bipolar:
Leah Charles-King, TV presenter and co-host of Channel 4’s ‘A Place in the Sun’
Sam Swidzinski, PhD student, author and founder of a tutoring business ‘Schologists’