NHS calls for action on mental health mortality gap


Achieving equality in physical and mental health has been identified as key NHS priority, with NHS England calling for commissioners and service users to work together to address the mortality gap for those with mental health problems.

Average life expectancy in England is increasing year on year (83 for women; 79 for men), but for people with mental health problems, average life expectancy is the equivalent to that in the 1950s.  People with mental health problems are also at increased risk of the top five health killers, such as heart disease, stroke, liver and respiratory diseases and some cancers, due in part to the following factors:

Smoking prevalence is twice as high with people with long-term mental health conditions

  • Heart attack/failure in people with mental health is 2–3 times higher than the general population
  • Bowel cancer is 3–4 times more likely for people with schizophrenia
  • Up to 50% of cancer patients develop common mental health problems compared to 16% of the general population.

At NHS England’s A Call to Action meeting in Manchester today, Dr Martin McShane, director for patients with long-term conditions, called for mental health services to be put on an equal footing with physical health services.

‘The “mortality gap” we see today is shocking,’ he said. ‘It is not acceptable that people with mental health conditions die younger. For too long, physical and mental health problems have been treated separately and people do not get the services they need every time.’

In England, mental health conditions cost approximately £105bn a year, taking into consideration loss of earnings, associated healthcare and welfare costs, far outweighing the £14bn invested by the NHS each year on giving direct care for people with mental health issues.

Picture: lel4nd@flickr

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