Bellvitge Hospital becomes the first large public centre in Spain to create a Clinical Psychology Service

With this organizational change, clinical psychologists have been brought together within a dedicated, independent, and cross-functional unit that caters to patients from across Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB).

The creation of this new service is an outcome of an initiative by the HUB's Management and Medical Directorate. Its purpose is to consolidate the care, teaching, and research work of clinical psychologists while addressing the increasing demand for activities related to mental health and emotional well-being, both for patients and professionals at the centre.

"The pandemic has further emphasized the necessity of integrating clinical psychology into patient care, whether they are receiving outpatient services or are admitted to various medical-surgical units within the hospital. This also applies to professionals treated in the Basic Prevention Unit (UBP)," explains Dr Susana Jiménez, the inaugural head of the new Clinical Psychology Unit at the Bellvitge University Hospital.

This name is prior to that of the Clinical Psychology Service, which will be definitively formally adopted within two years. "This change is aimed at giving value to our professional profile and providing the required autonomy to address the emerging needs of the community, which have been accelerated by the pandemic," concludes Susana Jiménez. It's worth noting that the Hospital de Granollers has also recently introduced a dedicated Clinical Psychology service. The innovative approach of our new unit introduces a transversal model for psychological care within the HUB. Historically, clinical and health psychology have been integrated within the hospital's psychiatry services. "We are pioneering this move to underscore the significance of clinical psychology as a distinct professional field, offering an alternative model within a hospital setting. This is important because, beyond patients who directly seek assistance for psychological concerns or mental conditions, many individuals with physical pathologies also require psychological intervention," adds Susana Jiménez.

At Bellvitge Hospital, the Clinical Psychology professionals lead two units that are national and international benchmarks: the Pathological Gambling and Behavioural Addictions Unit and the Eating Disorders (ED) Unit. Taking these two units, now integrated into the new service, as a model, work began in June 2022 on the deployment of the new system. "A model that gives us autonomy is the most appropriate for the figure of the clinical psychologist to be incorporated into different processes and diseases that require psychological care and support, obviously continuing to collaborate closely with Psychiatry, because they are very close disciplines," explains the head of the new unit.

The professionals of the new Clinical Psychology Service provide outpatient care in Nephrology (psychological assessments of potential kidney donors; recipients; individual treatments for patients with low adherence to immunosuppressive treatment and also care for relatives). Simultaneously, they establish stable collaborations with the Endocrinology Service to assess patients undergoing bariatric surgery. Additionally, they collaborate with the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the Rheumatology and Cardiology Services, the Colorectal Surgery Unit (for pelvic floor pathologies), the Mastocytosis Unit, and the Rare Diseases group. Their involvement extends to collaborating with the Post-COVID 19 Multidisciplinary Care Unit, the ERAS program, and the No Estàs Sol (You Are not Alone) programme, which addresses adverse events. Furthermore, they play an essential role in sensitive family situations such as bereavement, employing both individual and group interventions.

The new functional profile is also intensifying work with Primary Care in the South Metropolitan area. Last May, the South Metropolitan Territorial Management of the ICS launched the Model of Territorial Integration of Mental Health, with a global and coordinated vision of all the resources and professional experience that make up the services of the territory. The main objective of the model, which is coordinated by Dr Susana Jiménez, is to guarantee accessibility for all citizens to a diagnosis and treatment of excellence in mental pathologies, ensuring continuity of care between the different devices. The new functional profile is also enhancing collaboration with Primary Care in the South Metropolitan area. In May of this year, the South Metropolitan Territorial Management of the ICS introduced the Model of Territorial Integration of Mental Health. This model offers a comprehensive and coordinated approach to all the resources and professional expertise available within the territory's services. Spearheaded by Dr Susana Jiménez, the primary aim of this model is to guarantee universal access for all citizens to a diagnosis and treatment of excellence in mental pathologies, ensuring continuity of care between the different devices.

Another key objective of the newfound autonomy of Clinical Psychology at HUB is to boost research and education in this domain. To ensure that clinical activities form the foundation for research initiatives, a set of protocols has been devised to facilitate the gathering and examination of care-related data. In alignment with these goals, the recently established Clinical Psychology Unit has introduced additional professional roles to enhance both the care and research teams.

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