Psychologists bring specialist knowledge to enhance haemophilia practice

Many patients living with chronic conditions such as bleeding disorders will experience mental health issues at some stage in their life. Psychologists are increasingly seen as crucial members of the haemophilia MDT, offering specialist knowledge to help patients deal with issues that affect them in living with their haemophilia.

Haemnet recently supported a meeting of psychologists who are working in haemophilia and bleeding disorders. They came together to share their experiences, discuss their current challenges, and develop a shared vision of the role of the haemophilia psychologist.

The breadth of roles and importance of the MDT in haemophilia care is increasingly recognised. We already see a greater appreciation of the role of specialist nurses and physiotherapists as they work with consultants to achieve better outcomes for patients. More recently, the patient community is realising the value of psychological support as part of their combined care.

As the group bonded, it became clear that time is one of the biggest challenges psychologists experience. Many psychologist posts in haemophilia are part-time, often limited to as little as one day per week, during which they engage with a large number of patients, sometimes covering a large geographical area. For some, time is divided between oncology, general haematology and other specialties, which raises significant challenges in providing specialist support for those with haemophilia.

They also found that enabling the rest of the MDT to understand and appreciate their specific contribution to the team can be a challenge. Psychological support and care is a relatively new concept in traditional haemophilia treatment, although there are some notable exceptions who have been working as members of team for a number of years with a wealth of experience to share.

The group saw a need for greater clarity between the support for living well with haemophilia that can be provided by all members of the team and knowing when the specific skills of a psychologist with knowledge and understanding of haemophilia is needed. They wished to see greater emphasis placed on raising awareness among MDT members on how their skill set can be a significant asset when dealing with certain patients.

Throughout the day it became clear that those present shared similar challenges, and that by working together they would be better equipped to tackle and overcome them. Potential solutions and opportunities were also discussed, such as physically working more closely with the rest of the MDT when possible, making their presence known to patients whether in clinic through use of short questionnaires, or by using Skype and telephone consultations to improve outreach. Like other members of the MDT psychologists are interested in pursuing research opportunities.

Haemnet was happy to support the meeting, which saw the formation of the Haemophilia Psychologists Association, with a shared aim of supporting and improving psychological care for the haemophilia community. We wish the HPA well, and look forward to working with them in the future.