Report highlights lack of mental health support for clients with skin disease

The lack of mental health support available to skin disease patients has been highlighted as a top concern in a report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin (APPGS).

As such, the group is urging that the new mental health funding promised to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) must be used to invest in and improve mental health services that are dedicated to dermatology patients. 

APPGS’s survey of more than 500 UK patients with a range of skin conditions revealed that 98% feel their skin condition affects their emotional and psychological wellbeing, while 5% have suicidal thoughts because of it. 

However, despite these statistics, only 18% have received some form of psychological support and more than half did not realise specialised support was available for them, in the form of psychodermatology.

APPG’s Mental Health and Skin Disease Report also revealed that: 

Meanwhile, 100% of the 27 children who responded to the survey indicated that their skin condition affected their psychological wellbeing, and 85% felt they had low self-esteem, the report found. Of the children with low self-esteem, 85% reported this as being particularly in relation to engaging with peers at school. 

What needs to change?

The APPGS is recommending mandatory psychodermatology training, an increase in dermatology training numbers, and comprehensive, dedicated psychodermatology services in each region of the UK to help improve services. 

In addition, the report also states that there is a need for all dermatology units to have named, dedicated staff either to manage patients with skin and mental health disease, or refer patients to a nearby regional service. Another major issue identified by the report is the lack of paediatric psychodermatology clinics – currently there is only one in the UK. 

Sir Edward Leigh MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin and Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, said: “This timely report comes out during a period of unpresented psychological distress for many people living with a skin condition. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated anxiety and stress among those already known to experience significant appearance-related distress.

"I was alarmed by the lack of psychological support that is available to people with a skin condition. The NHS must urgently invest in, and expand, specialist mental health support for people with a skin condition."

Dr Tony Bewley, consultant dermatologist and chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Skin’s Expert Committee, said: “We are keen to urge commissioners to recognise the evidence highlighted in this report, which shows that investment in specialised mental health services for people with skin conditions is cost effective compared to the alternatives.”

How was the data for this report gathered:

Evidence was collected in March and April 2020 from more than 500 patients with a range of skin conditions, 100 clinicians and 16 organisations operating in the field of dermatology. Of the 16 skin organisations contributing to the report, all said that they felt NHS service provision in this area is either "poor" (80%) or "very poor" (20%).

Read the APPGS's Mental Health and Skin Disease Report

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