Mobile testing labs to tackle mental health

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Health teams will take mobile testing labs out into communities in a bid to reduce premature deaths from undiagnosed conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease amongst people with mental illness.

Dr Martin Myers, Consultant Clinical Scientist and Director of Clinical Biochemistry at Lancashire Teaching Hospital, is devloping a new service that will take testing for health conditions out to people with mental health problems.

The teams will take test kits out to pop-up clinics across the North West. The aim is to take testing out to people, rather than relying on them to attend their GP or hospital appointments. 

People with long-term and severe mental health problems are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital as an emergency case than the rest of the population, because of problems with their physical health. Eventually, people could be tested in their homes.

The NHS’s Five Year Forward View for mental health states that people with mental health problems are dying 15 to 20 years earlier on average.

Dr Myers is working on the initiative with Professor Paul French, one of NHS England’s clinical leads for mental health.

Dr Myers said: “With advances in technology, there is no reason why diagnostics cannot be delivered anywhere.  Big centralised and state-of-the art labs such as the one that I am responsible for offer expertise and economies of scale – but some groups and communities need something else.  That is why I have developed the Laboratory Anywhere model of diagnostics delivery.”

Dr Myers believes the scheme will see a reduction in emergency admissions for this group and ultimately improve life-expectancy by getting people diagnosed and on a treatment pathway.

The scheme has the support of NHS England with local commissioners and the council expressing interest in this way of delivering targeted health checks.