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23.02.16

Mindfulness therapy could save NHS money and reduce staff stress

Mindfulness practice for both patients and staff could save the NHS money and reduce staff stress, according to the first government report to consider mindfulness as a matter of public policy.

At the Salford launch of the Mindful Nation UK report, Jamie Bristow, director of the Mindfulness Initiative, said mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for people with depression and chronic pain could save the NHS £15 for every £1 spent.

The report says that a meta-analysis of six trials found that MBCT, which teaches patients to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment with an attitude of curiosity and kindness, reduced the risk of relapse for people with depression by 43%. Depression is estimated to cost the country £9.19bn a year in lost earnings, and is forecast to cost the NHS £2.96bn in the next decade.

A review of 114 studies also found consistent evidence that MBCT improves the mental health and wellbeing of patients with conditions including cancer, lower back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis and HIV.

Bristow said that mindfulness therapy is underutilised in the NHS at the moment, with 72% of GPs saying they wanted to refer patients to it but only one in five knowing how.

At the launch, Dr Peter Morgan, clinical psychologist at the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Mindfulness Teacher Network, warned “it’s kind of countercultural at the moment to come in and be looking more broadly at wellbeing” in the NHS.

He also said that practicing mindfulness could benefit NHS staff, 39% of whom were made unwell by stress in 2014-15.

“We have to change this idea that seeking healthcare as NHS staff is somehow weak and we should just carry on and keep going,” he said.

Bristow also warned that the increased devolution of health and education services makes promoting mindfulness therapy harder, because providers have to approach individual organisations and compete against larger bodies such as pharmaceutical companies.

NHE will have more coverage of the Mindful Nation UK report online and in the Mar/Apr edition of the magazine.

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