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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
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National demonstration site holds open day on improving services for people with bipolar disorder

Around 90 delegates from across England attended a recent national event aimed at improving mental health services for people who live with bipolar disorder.

The open day was organised by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) and the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University, who were selected by the Department of Health in 2012 to work in partnership as a national demonstration site for psychological therapies in the treatment of bipolar disorder. This work is funded as part of the national Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) for Severe Mental Illness initiative.

There are approximately one million people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the UK. This project aims to showcase a range of psychological therapies that are available in Birmingham for people with bipolar disorder, with the long term ambition of ensuring that all people living with this disorder who could benefit from evidence based psychological therapies have access to them.

Dr Amanda Gatherer, Director of Psychological Services and Head of Psychology at BSMHFT said: “Bipolar disorder can take up to 10 years to diagnose and, even after diagnosis, GPs are often inadequately equipped in terms of both the knowledge and resources to provide effective support.

“Specific clinical services for bipolar disorder are rare, which means that treatments are often limited to medication, or adapted from those designed for other severe mental illnesses. This can leave people with bipolar disorder feeling devalued and unable to access the right kind of intervention other than medication.”

Professor Steve Jones from the Spectrum Centre said: “The national demonstration site is innovative in that it is developing and evaluating a specialist pathway and resources that will for the first time offer access to psychological therapies designed specifically for people with bipolar disorder.  We would urge anyone interested in the work we are doing to contact us to find out more.”

Delegates included clinicians, commissioners and also around 20 service users, some of whom spoke of their experiences of trying to access support.  Presenters talked about the progress to date of the national demonstration site in developing specialist services and those present also heard from Kevin Jarman, Deputy Director for Adult IAPT, who outlined the IAPT for Severe Mental Illness project within the context of the wider IAPT programme and set out the intentions of the project and demonstration sites.