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Access to primary and specialized somatic health care for persons with severe mental illness: a qualitative study of perceived barriers and facilitators in Swedish health care

Journal article
Authors Elisabeth Björk Brämberg
Jarl S Torgerson
Anna Norman Kjellström
P. Welin
Marie Rusner
Published in BMC Family Practice
Volume 19
ISSN 1471-2296
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Language en
Keywords Barriers and facilitators, Health services accessibility, Qualitative research, Semi-structured, cardiovascular-disease, internalized stigma, bipolar disorder, self-esteem, people, multimorbidity, schizophrenia, metaanalysis, experiences, population, General & Internal Medicine
Subject categories Psychiatry


Background: Persons with severe mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) have a high prevalence of somatic conditions compared to the general population. Mortality data in the Nordic countries reveal that these persons die 15-20 years earlier than the general population. Some factors explaining this high prevalence may be related to the individuals in question; others arise from the health care system's difficulty in offering somatic health care to these patient groups. The aim of the present study was therefore to explore the experiences and views of patients, relatives and clinicians regarding individual and organizational factors which facilitate or hinder access to somatic health care for persons with severe mental illness. Methods: Flexible qualitative design. Data was collected by means of semi-structured individual interviews with patients with severe mental illness, relatives and clinicians representing primary and specialized health care. In all, 50 participants participated. Results: The main barrier to accessing somatic care is the gap between the organization of the health care system and the patients' individual health care needs. This is observed at both individual and organizational level. The health care system seems unable to support patients with severe mental illness and their psychiatric-somatic comorbidity. The main facilitators are the links between severe mental illness patients and medical departments. These links take the form of functions (i.e. systems which ensure that patients receive regular reminders), or persons (i.e. professional contacts who facilitate patients' access the health care). Conclusions: Health care services for patients with severe mental illness need reorganization. Organizational structures and systems that facilitate cooperation between different departments must be put in place, along with training for health care professionals about somatic disease among psychiatric patients. The links between individual and organizational levels could be strengthened by introducing professional contacts, such as liaison physicians and case managers. This is also important to reduce stress and responsibility among relatives.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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