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Skin disease is more than skin deep

Dermatology Team of the Year 2017

Skin disease is more than skin deep

“This a defining moment in psycho-dermatology because it is an area so undervalued and underpowered by healthcare professionals.

The BMJ Award helps to highlight the importance of the emotional impact on our patients living with a disfiguring, itchy, sleep-disturbing skin disease.”

Anthony Bewley, Consultant dermatologist at the Royal London Hospital and Whipps Cross University Hospital.

The Dermatology Team of the Year at The BMJ Awards 2017 was won by the Barts Health Psychodermatology team based at Royal London Hospital. They spoke to us about the positive impact this award has on the future of psycho-dermatology.

Anthony Bewley, the consultant dermatologist at the Royal London Hospital and Whipps Cross University Hospital, leads the multidisciplinary team that combines dermatology with psychological support.

Having pioneered a new subspecialty within British Dermatology, they have developed a new model for clinical services. Studies prove the clinic’s work to be a cost-effective way of creating better outcomes for children and adolescents with self-induced skin disease, and patients with a delusional infestation. A training school has been established to pass on the lessons learnt, with trainees coming from the UK and abroad.

Few patients with skin diseases are free of psychological effects. In surveys, 85% say that the distress is a major part of their illness because the skin condition triggers self harm, depression, or even suicide.

Anthony told us that The BMJ award has raised the profile of both the team and the entire hospital. As a direct result of winning, they were invited to speak at the British Association of Dermatologists annual conference meeting. During an exclusive plenary session, they had access to a larger than usual audience to showcase their project.

“This a defining moment in psychodermatology because it is an area so undervalued and underpowered by healthcare professionals. The award helps to highlight the importance of the emotional impact on our patients living with a disfiguring, itchy, sleep-disturbing skin disease.”

“Another positive attribute of winning is that we now find it much easier to communicate how crucial it is to have these services more available on a national scale. It allows us to more easily share best practices to inspire others regionally to set up their own clinics.”

The award has also helped to secure funding. Firstly it showed commissioners how cost-effective the project is to manage and how patients are getting better more efficiently. Secondly, category sponsor, Leo, sponsor the educational sessions developed for dermatology junior trainees. And finally, major pharmaceutical companies are in discussions with us around funding research in the psychosocial or the psycho commodities of living with a skin disease such as psoriasis.

Anthony also talked about how the award will lead to better networking; for patient support groups and patient advocacy groups who are now paying more attention as a result of hearing about it.

“There is a strong possibility that in decades to come this pattern of dermatological service will be successfully replicated across the UK. The fact that it is award winning will most definitely contribute to this success.”

For more information to become involved in The BMJ Awards, which support and celebrate the work of frontline medical staff that might otherwise be unnoticed, please email David Bell on dbell@bmj.com

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL IMPACT OF SKIN DISEASES ON PEOPLES LIVES (2013) Bewley A, Affleck A, Bundy C, Higgins E, McBride S. Br J Dermatol. 2013, Jun;168(6):1149-50. Psychodermatology services guidance: the report of the British Association of Dermatologists 39; Psychodermatology Working Party.