The General Hospital Psychiatry Research Group investigates the grey area between medicine and psychiatry: how psychological health can affect physical illness and vice versa.
Researchers seek to understand more, for example, about how a patient’s state of mind can make a difference to how quickly they recover from surgery, or how well they cope with a diagnosis of a chronic disease. The Group also studies, develops and trials treatments for debilitating illnesses that either currently lack medical explanation or involve both body and mind.
The Persistent Physical Symptoms Research and Treatment Unit is jointly run by the Group with King’s College Hospital: this national specialist service undertakes assessment, treatment and research. General Hospital Psychiatry researchers are involved, for example, in the MRC PACE Trial, the largest trial of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome/ME to date, which is testing the effectiveness of different therapies.
Many of the Group’s members are also part of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, run jointly by the Department of Psychological Medicine and the Department of War Studies in the IoPPN’s sister School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London. Their research includes the health consequences of serving with the UK armed forces and the history of military psychiatry. This work is complemented by ongoing research within the Group concerning the impact of terrorism on ordinary people.
The Group also investigates symptoms that have been attributed to certain environmental exposures: mobile phone signals or common household chemicals, for example. The Mobile Phone Research Unit is run collaboratively with the Neurobiology of Mood Disorders Research Group, also in the Department of Psychological Medicine. This work is supported financially by the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme.
IMPARTS (Integrated Mental and Physical healthcare: Research Training and Services) is an initiative funded by King’s Health Partners to improve the detection and management of mental health problems among patients presenting in medical settings. The project is developing IT systems for screening patients for physical and psychological symptom distress and is designing an MSc module in Psychological Medicine.
The group also conducts research on inequalities in common mental disorders, physical health, and health service use. The Tackling Inequalities and Discrimination Experiences in health Services (TIDES) study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, investigates how discrimination experienced by both patients and healthcare providers may generate and perpetuate inequalities in health service use. The South East London Community Health (SELCoH) study is an epidemiological cohort study based in Lambeth and Southwark. The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and Dementia Unit (BRC/U) at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London.
Another strand of research relates to the ability to make decisions for oneself in healthcare (decision-making capacity) and issues related to this.
Main funders of research in the Group are the Ministry of Defence, the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Department of Health and the National Institutes of Health in the USA.
The Group's leader is Matthew Hotopf, a Professor of General Hospital Psychiatry and an Honorary Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist for King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, South London, and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
PhD students undertaking research in General Hospital Psychiatry are encouraged to present their work at regular group seminars, held primarily for colleagues but open to others interested in the subject. Students interested in undertaking either part-time of full-time research within the Section should contact the member of staff most likely to offer a project in their chosen area.