Mental Health

SHAPE: Support for Health Anxiety at the Prince of Wales Hospital – An Exploratory Study

Project Lead
Dr Michael John Murphy

Dr Michael John Murphy


Dr Michael John Murphy


Dr Michael John Murphy is a consultation liaison psychiatrist working at the Prince of Wales hospital and Orange Health Service with medical, surgical, and intensive care patients who have a co-occurring mental health difficulty such as depression, psychosis or delirium, providing expert assessment and advice to the patient, family members and health care staff.

He previously worked, and then held an honorary appointment, at the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD), a joint venture of St. Vincent’s hospital, Sydney and the School of Psychiatry at UNSW.

Dr Murphy’s PhD from the School of Psychiatry, UNSW, examined the role of internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) in the treatment of depression and/or anxiety in cancer patients, including  randomised controlled trials to evaluate iCBT in early stage and advanced stage cancer and in cancer survivors. He has also studied patient care in eating disorders, managing blood-borne viral illnesses in mental health patients, and teaching doctors how to assess patients’ decision-making capacity.

About one-third of people with a chronic physical health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, also experience depression or anxiety at some point during their illness or treatment.

Mental health problems have biological effects that worsen some physical diseases, and they can also sap energy and motivation – making people less able to follow treatment plans. People with mental ill health on top of physical disease are admitted to hospital more often and stay longer, and they also die sooner. Despite this, many mental health issues are recognised too late to make much difference to people’s physical health treatment.

Providing new models of care for people with health-related anxiety has the potential to improve the quality of treatment while making health systems more efficient.

About the project

The SHAPE project will test an approach to mental health screening and managing health anxiety in medical or surgical clinic patients at the Prince of Wales Hospital. People identified having high health anxiety will be offered interventions including a free online evidence-based therapy course or receiving care from a specialised team of clinicians via telehealth. The researchers will then use data linkage to evaluate whether psychological test scores correlate with general hospital attendance in the preceding years. The project will also:

  • Run focus groups to explore how doctors view anxiety in people with physical illness
  • Review the academic literature on rates of anxiety in people with physical illness

Funding Sources

  • Commonwealth grant funding awarded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

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