Limited interface between physiotherapy primary care and people with severe mental illness: a qualitative study
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© 2017 Questions How do mental health professionals perceive the role of physiotherapists in the care of people with severe and persistent mental illness, and what factors do they perceive as influencing access to physiotherapy services? How do people with severe and persistent mental illness understand the potential role of physiotherapy in their healthcare, and what factors do they perceive as influencing access to physiotherapy services? Design Qualitative study. Participants Twenty-four mental health professionals and 35 people with severe and persistent mental illness. Methods Interview schedules were developed to explore participants’ understanding of physiotherapy, as well as barriers and enablers to service access. Focus groups and interviews were conducted for each group of participants. Transcripts were analysed using an inductive approach to derive key themes. Results Both the mental health professionals and the people with severe and persistent mental illness expressed a limited understanding of the role and relevance of physiotherapy for physical health in mental healthcare. Common barriers to service access were cost, transport and lack of motivation. Likewise, enablers of reduced cost, provision of transport and education about physiotherapy to improve their understanding were identified. The health system structure and perceived lack of mental health knowledge by physiotherapists influenced referrals from mental health professionals. Consequently, education in mental health for physiotherapists and integration of the service within mental health were identified as potential enablers to physiotherapy access. Conclusion Limited understanding about physiotherapy and its relevance to physical health in mental healthcare among mental health professionals and people with severe and persistent mental illness was found to be a key factor influencing service access. Limited physiotherapy presence and advocacy within mental health were also highlighted. There is a need for greater understanding about physiotherapy among stakeholders, and for physiotherapists to be well equipped with skills and knowledge in mental health to facilitate greater involvement. [Lee S, Waters F, Briffa K, Fary RE (2017) Limited interface between physiotherapy primary care and people with severe mental illness: a qualitative study. Journal of Physiotherapy 63: 168–174]
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