An exploration of clinician attitudes towards older adults experiencing mental and physical health problems in the UK
It has been suggested that agism, stigma and other forms of discrimination lead to older adults with serious mental illness (SMI) being invisible in policy, practice and research. This paper explores and critically examines stakeholders’ attitudes and perceptions concerning older adults with serious mental illness also experiencing physical health needs based on research conducted in the UK. A qualitative case study approach was utilised and a purposive sample of 24 staff involved in the commissioning, managing, planning and provision of services for older adults with SMI were recruited. Data collected from ten semi-structured interviews and two focus groups was analysed using a framework analysis and four themes emerged: Defining the patient group and their journey in care; seeing the whole person; Devolving care (falling through the gap); and Making it happen and moving forward. Although participants held positive attitudes towards older adults with SMI with an emphasis on the provision of holistic care, gaps in service provision and organisational structures were apparent. Service users appeared to be moved through services dependent on presentation rather than need, without a coordinated approach. Practitioners felt it was becoming increasingly challenging to manage physical healthcare needs in addition to managing more pressing mental health issues and many older adults with SMI and physical health needs were falling through the gap. However, the hospital trust was seen to be making steady progress with the implementation of early warning systems, recognition of the importance of education for all healthcare professionals and early signs of linkage between services. It is suggested that more collaborative working between relevant services is required, and it is proposed that the establishment of a community psychiatric liaison service to coordinate care could prevent crisis situations arising for patients with co-morbidities.
Citation : Clifton, A. et al. (2016) An exploration of clinician attitudes towards older adults experiencing mental and physical health problems in the UK. International Journal of Aging and Society,
Research Group : Nursing and Midwifery Research Centre
Research Institute : Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care