Psychiatric patients to receive physical health checks

By Michael Buchanan
BBC News

image copyrightScience Photo Library
image captionPsychiatric patients are often in poor physical health

Mental health trusts are to be paid for carrying out assessments of the physical condition and lifestyle of psychiatric patients.

NHS England says the scheme is the biggest initiative of its kind.

The programme aims to cut the number of mental health patients who die from heart, liver and lung disease in particular.

Mental health patients die from physical health problems about 15 years earlier than the general population.

Their life expectancy is similar to people living in the 1950s.

The assessments will therefore looks at a variety of indicators including patients' diet, weight, blood pressure and whether they smoke.

Hospital patients will be among the first to checked, especially those on anti-psychotic drugs.

The pills can lead to rapid weight gain and some patients refuse the medication for that reason.

Once the assessments have been carried out, the patient can be passed to another consultant or given education and advice on the appropriate ways to improve their physical health.

NHS England estimate that mental health trusts could earn up to £200,000 this year from carrying out the checks.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England's national clinical director for mental health, said: "We are committed to making sure that mental health is treated the same way as physical health, and NHS England is working hard to close the gap between the two.

"The national financial incentive we have introduced this year for trusts is the world's largest ever initiative in improving physical health in people with severe mental ill health conditions and will be a clinical quality game changer.

"Mental health staff in England are to carry out lifestyle checks on their patients to improve their physical health in an attempt to reduce avoidable deaths."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "It has long been known that mental illness can significantly reduce a person's life expectancy, for reasons which may be related to their condition, lifestyle or medication.

"A recent large-scale study found that serious mental illness alone can raise the risk of dying early by two-thirds.

"There has been a tendency to dismiss or ignore the physical symptoms of people with mental health problems, and SANE welcomes this overdue initiative."

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