Promoting Excellence In Psychological Health & Wellbeing

Maximising the Impact of Psychological Practice in Physical Healthcare #PsychologicalProfessionsWeek

10 Nov 20

How could psychological practice transform physical healthcare? Hear more at #PsychologicalProfessionsWeek

Brad Powell, Senior Assistant Psychologist, PPN South East

“Every patient has the right to a discussion and interpretation of his or her symptoms within a holistic framework where all relevant biological, psychological, and social aspects of health can be considered.” (Kvamme et al., 2001)

The mind-body connection has been hotly debated for years. However, research firmly ascertains the close relationship between physical and mental health, a relationship that has been compounded by COVID-19. The Psychological Professions possess valuable skills which can benefit the physical healthcare sector, and it is fundamental these skills are utilised to promote optimal health within our society. 

If you’re interested in psychological practice, or are working in the physical healthcare sector, you’ll want to check out our recent discussion paper written by Dr Clare Daniel and the PPN SE team. The paper highlights the value of the Psychological Professions within in a physical healthcare setting, explains the barriers to implementation, and makes a series of recommendations.

If you want to further understand how psychological practice could transform physical healthcare, you can also hear from Dr Clare Daniel at #PsychologicalProfessionsWeek on the 17th November, 15:00-16:30.

Why is there a need for Psychological Professionals in physical healthcare settings?

Healthcare is moving from the “medical” to the “biopsychosocial” model, which posits ‘biological, psychological and social processes are integrally and interactively involved in physical health and illness’ (Suls & Rothman, 2004). Further support for the model, and the need for Psychological Professionals in physical healthcare, comes from research suggesting 4.5 of 16.5 million people with long-term physical health conditions (LTCs) in England experience concomitant psychological distress. People with an LTC are two to three times more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population. This increases to seven times in the presence of two or more LTCs (Moussavi et al., 2007). This also comes at an economic cost, the complex interrelationships between physical and psychological health, result in between £8 billion to £13 billion of the NHS budget in England being spent on the population with LTCs (Naylor et al., 2012).

How could Psychological Professionals help?

Psychological Professionals in a physical healthcare setting can support people to develop a range of cognitive, behavioural and psychological skills to reduce the physical, psychological and social impact of the physical health condition on them and their lives, and to live well with the condition. Moreover, if the patient is a child, the parents or guardians, and sometimes siblings, may also be affected by a family member having a physical health condition, and therefore may also benefit from attending sessions with the psychological therapist.

There’s plenty of evidence supporting the role of Psychological Professionals contributing to quality improvements and cost savings within physical healthcare settings. One example of best practice based on scientific evidence comes from the University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust Pain Management Centre. The central tenet of the work of all members of the multidisciplinary team (nurses, physiotherapists, pain management doctors and psychologists) at the UCLH Pain Management Centre understand that all pain is the result of biological and psychological factors. This integrated model of pain is explained to and normalised with the patients, who also learn that the results of medical investigations are frequently ‘negative’ because they are currently unable to capture the mechanisms of persistent pain. This removes the stigma of talking about distress in the context of pain and the fear of being labelled as ‘somatising’ or having ‘psychogenic pain’. As importantly, it also helps patients to understand and engage in cognitive behavioural pain management interventions (the cognitive model or the acceptance and commitment model) alongside medical inventions (where indicated). For this integrated approach to be successful, all clinicians, regardless of profession and grade need to have some understanding of and respect for the role of each team member.

If you want to find out more about the impact the Psychological Professions can have in physical healthcare, in addition to the current barriers and recommendations, you can read the discussion paper and tune in to #PsychologicalProfessionsWeek on the 17th November.

What next?

 We want to develop this plan with stakeholders and hear everyone’s perspective.

To register for the conference (it’s free), and view the full program, please follow this link:

We recommend becoming a member to the PPN. It’s also free, and gives you access to the latest updates, events and our bi-monthly newsletter! To sign up, please see:

We hope to see you on the 17th November and thank you for wanting to make a difference to our society.


Kvamme, O.J., Olesen, F. and Samuelsson, M., 2001. Improving the interface between primary and secondary care: a statement from the European Working Party on Quality in Family Practice (EQuiP). BMJ Quality & Safety. 10(1), pp.33-39.

Suls. J, & Rothman, A (2004). Evolution of the Biopsychosocial Model: Prospects and Challenges for Health Psychology. Health Psychology Vol. 23, No. 2, 119–125

Moussavi, S., Chatterji, S., Verdes, E., Tandon, A., Patel, V. and Ustun, B. (2007). Depression, chronic diseases, and decrements in health: Results from the world health surveys. Lancet. 370(9590), 851-858.

Naylor, C., Parsonage, M., McDaid, D., Knapp, M., Fossey, M., and Galea, A. (2012). Long-term conditions and mental health: The cost of co-morbidities. London: The King’s Fund and Centre for Mental Health.


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