Improving care and diagnosis for those with bipolar disorder

Royal College of Psychiatrists and Bipolar UK consensus statement

  • More than one million – 1 in 50 people – live with bipolar in Britain.
  • For each person living with the condition, a further five family members and friends are profoundly impacted.
  • People with bipolar are significantly at greater risk of physical illness and, on average, die 10-15 years younger
  • It takes an average of 9.5 years to get an accurate diagnosis of bipolar in the UK.
  • During this lost decade, people living with undiagnosed bipolar are at risk of losing their jobs, relationships, homes and lives.

In a series of surveys, the Bipolar Commission found:

  • two-thirds of people with bipolar had lost a job.
  • people with bipolar are twice as likely to be divorced.
  • 15% of people had lost their home and 12% were made homeless.
  • two thirds had been hospitalised and a third had been sectioned.
  • a third (34%) had attempted suicide due to this prolonged delay to getting a diagnosis.

We call on the Government to make the UK the most bipolar-friendly country in the world by making and delivering on the following four commitments:

  1. Reduce the average delay to diagnosis from 9.5 years down to 5 years. This could include public awareness campaigns and specialist diagnosis centres for referrals from primary care.
  2. Provide a specialist care pathway for bipolar patients. This would be on a par with early interventions for psychosis services, it would be psychiatrist-led, with support from mental health nurses, and would prioritise continuity of care and peer support.
  3. Develop standards for bipolar care and data collection. These could be regularly audited by an independent third party, such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  4. Provide effective psychoeducation for everyone with bipolar. This would mean rolling out self-management courses (covering treatment, sleep, hygiene, dietary advice etc) across the country.
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