New NICE Guidelines to improve diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder

The National Institute for Heath and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health have today launched clinical guidelines that aim to improve the identification, treatment and management of bipolar disorder in both children and adults.

The guidelines include recommendations that people with bipolar disorder have annual physical health checks and that healthcare professionals monitor carefully the medication taken by patients.

The guidelines also call for more to be done to ensure that bipolar disorder is correctly identified and recognised by health professionals, and set out the criteria for when patients need to be referred on for specialist psychiatric assessment and treatment.

Liz Griffiths, Empowerment Coordinator at Hafal, said: “We welcome the NICE guidelines, particularly as they echo much of the advice that we as a charity already give to clients and health professionals.

“We are particularly glad to see the recommendations about annual physical health checks. Statistics clearly show that people with severe mental illness tend to have poorer physical health and this desperately needs to be addressed.

“As an organisation we campaign strongly on timely treatment and diagnosis, so we are pleased to see an emphasis in the guidelines on early detection. We also base all our services on the ethos of patient empowerment, so the guidelines on involving patients in decision making are also encouraging.

“Although NICE guidelines no longer directly cover Wales, we hope they will be heeded by health professionals in this country – and have a positive impact on the treatment of bipolar disorder.”

Launching the new guidelines, Andrea Sutcliffe, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said: “Bipolar disorder often goes unrecognised or mis-diagnosed and more needs to be done to raise awareness of the condition and the fact that there are effective treatments available. The guideline should help raise awareness by setting out how people with bipolar disorder should be identified and treated.”

Stephen Pilling, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Joint Director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health who developed the guide on behalf of NICE, added: “It can take on average around eight years from onset of first symptoms to receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. This is far too long. More needs to be done to improve awareness, identification and recognition of this problem so that appropriate treatments are prescribed and symptoms can be better controlled.”

To read the NICE guidelines, including information for clients and health professionals, click here.