Has COVID-19 exacerbated health inequalities in people living with severe mental disorders? Linkage study (Psychology, KCL)

Contact: Jayati Das-Munshi (Project would be jointly supervised by Dr Peter Schofield)

Email: jayati.das-munshi@kcl.ac.uk

Department: Psychology

Institution: King’s College London

Project timeline: Can be flexible – but will require approvals in place for data access which will take around 1 month (unless already has access to datasets)

Project duration: 13 weeks

Closing date: TBC

Expertise: Doctoral level quantitative data analysis expertise / experience is required – ideally using secondary health survey / electronic health records. Knowledge of inequalities in physical / mental health would be desirable.

Project description: There are major concerns that the impact of COVID-19 has led to adverse outcomes in people with severe mental disorders. In particular, there have been widespread changes to service provision (with a move to remote consultations, as well as public health advice to stay at home which led people to stay away from health services even when in acute crisis), and linked concerns that lock down measures and social distancing efforts may have exacerbated feelings of social isolation with further adverse impacts on mental health, in vulnerable populations. Furthermore the social/ economic impacts of the pandemic have led to major concerns that this will further adversely impact people with severe mental illnesses, who were already vulnerable. This study will assess the impact of changes in care provision across primary and secondary care (using data from secondary mental health care records from south London linked to primary care records) to assess if measures and impacts linked to the COVID-19 onset in the UK have led to an increase in deaths in people with severe mental illnesses, potentially mediated through the withdrawal of face-to-face mental health services. This is a secondary data analysis informed by prior service user consultation exercises which reflect their concerns that COVID-19 has exacerbated underlying health inequalities in people living with severe mental health problems. The study findings will be fed back to commissioning groups and primary care to inform how care is provided as the pandemic unfolds.

Description of work involved: The student will work with a linked dataset from primary and secondary care and will be supported to conduct/ lead on analyses assess the impact of COVID-19 on 1. deaths in people with severe mental disorders; 2. Whether changes to service provision (greater remote consultations, reduced face to face consultations) mediated observed mortality in this population. The student will be supervised to lead analyses using advanced quantitative methods- including interrupted time series analyses, and mediation/ path analyses. The student will be encouraged to lead the writing of one academic paper or report to commissioners on the main findings and will be encouraged to share findings with our service user advisory group.