In a recent study it was found that the percentage of patients with serious mental illnesses ending up in hospital can be reduced by 40 per cent if they have a care plan.
The study was published in the journal 'Health Services Research'.
The study, which tracked 20,000 patients with a severe mental illness through the healthcare system, also found that seeing the same GP reduced the risk of unplanned hospital admission by around 25 per cent.
The findings of the research revealed the importance of continuity of care at the GP's for improving health outcomes for patients with a severe mental illness, the authors of the study said.
Severe mental illnesses affect between one and two per cent of the population and include conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
People with severe mental illness often experience several other physical health problems. Their life expectancy is around 20 years shorter than the general population and they also visit A & E more often and have higher rates of unplanned hospital admissions.
Lead author of the study, Professor Rowena Jacobs from the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York, said, "Finding ways to improve health care and outcomes for patients with severe mental illness is a high priority. Seeing a GP is often the only regular point of contact with health services for this group and so it's really important that they receive high-quality care at this stage of the system."
"Our study shows that continuity of care has the knock-on effect of reducing costly unplanned hospital admissions, which both saves the NHS money and could improve the stark health inequalities experienced by people with severe mental health conditions," Jacobs added.
The researchers explored two aspects of continuity of care - consistently seeing the same GP and care plans - which are documents which state what type of support is needed to meet a patient's needs. They detail a patient's history, circumstances, level of independence and include a personalised action plan for them.
The researchers found that seeing the same doctor reduced the risk of having to go to A & E by 8-11 per cent and the risk of unplanned hospital admission by 23-27 per cent. Having a care plan reduced the risk of a visit to A & E by 29 per cent and an unplanned hospital admission by 32 per cent. It also reduced the risk of a patient being admitted to hospital for reasons linked to their mental health condition by 39 per cent.
The study is the first to link data sets in order to look at the entire health care pathway for patients in England.
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