More patients with serious mental illness to receive physical health checks

Action taken to address lower life expectancy of NHS patients in England with serious mental illness

Almost double the number of NHS patients in England with serious mental illness will now receive five key physical health checks.

The move follows a successful pilot at four mental health trusts where hundreds of inpatients were part of the two-year programme to improve physical care. By the end, 86% received five recommended cardiovascular screens compared to 46% initially.

Nurses and doctors used the Lester tool, a poster and electronic clinical prompt system, to screen and intervene for cardiovascular conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, lifestyle and weight.

Recommending all mental health trusts and primary care teams use the Lester tool, NHS England’s former national clinical director for mental health Gillian Strathdee said: ‘We can no longer see patients with serious mental illness only through the prism of their mental health; we must ensure an integrated physical and mental health.'

Cardiovascular conditions

Approximately 12,000 fewer people would die from cardiovascular disease if people with a serious mental illness had the same outcomes as the general population.

Factors that contribute to this include: poverty; side effects of anti-psychotic medication; lifestyle; and difficulty accessing a GP and acute or mental health services.

Patients with serious mental illness die on average 20 years earlier than the general population due to preventable physical health problems – a life expectancy similar to the 1950s.