NHS England pledge to help patients with serious mental illness


NHS England has pledged to tackle the issue of early death in patients with serious mental illness, a group who have the life expectancy of people living in the 1950s.

As the Department of Health launches its Mental Health Action Plan, NHS England is setting out how it will tackle a number of mental health issues. This includes the health inequalities between people with serious mental illness and the general population.

There are more than 40,000 deaths among people with serious mental illness, which could be reduced if they receive the same healthcare checks and interventions as the general population.

Statistics show that patients with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychoses are dying earlier from conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease and liver disease.

This is because the physical health risk factors of these conditions are not being managed as well in these patients who are missing out on vital health interventions.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England's National Clinical Director for Mental Health, said: ‘We are keenly aware of the issues patients with severe mental illness have in terms of their physical health, and the need for extra help to tackle their physical health problems.

‘Patients with schizophrenia will on average die 14.6 years earlier, bipolar 10.1 and patients with schizoaffective disorder eight years earlier than the general population. They are dying of the same conditions as the general population but have the life expectancy as people had living in the 1950s.

‘In all inpatient units and three community intensive teams, we want to make sure health professionals across the board are making checks which pick up lifestyle issues such as smoking and lack of physical exercise which is markedly higher in the SMI population than the general population, as well as tackling the higher levels of diabetes, cancer and other long term illnesses. We know that medication can be a factor, so people also need to be offered regular education, choice and monitoring of the impacts of medication.’

Support for implementation are being developed by NHS England and its partners, which could make a real impact on reducing the premature mortality that exists in the serious mental illness population.These include:

  • Using a best practice model which will pick up patients with SMI who have physical health conditions that need assessment and treatment. NHS IQ are implementation supports
  • Working closely with experts in medicines management to ensure the effects and side effects of psychotrophic medications are routinely monitored and addressed
  • Introducing incentives for physical health checks and treatments to be undertaken in all mental health in-patient settings of all types, in all sectors (a new national CQUIN) See notes to editors for further info.
  • Developing advice from successful best practice schemes about how to educate staff and patients to achieve smoke free inpatient settings and stop smoking
  • Working with public health and commissioners so targeted smoking schemes for people with mental health issues are commissioned 
  • Assessing the evidence about what works in reducing premature mortality and ensuring this information is disseminated across the NHS particularly to CCGs and strategic clinical networks.

Dr Strathdee added: ‘While this year we are targeting patients in all in-patient settings and the three community teams, we want to learn from this, and in the future identify how to use the successful improvement methods for all mental health service users in contact with Primary care and mental health teams in the community.’

Picture: lel4nd@flickr.jpg

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