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Physical health in those with SMI

To view the presentations from the 5 December Physical Health for those with Mental Illness event, click here

People living with severe mental illness (SMI) face one of the greatest health inequality gaps in the UK. In the Thames Valley, life-expectancy is reduced by an average of 15–20 years mainly due to preventable physical illness.

A combination of factors including the side effects of anti-psychotic medication, lifestyle, diagnostic overshadowing and difficulties accessing mainstream health services can all contribute to the reduced life expectancy.

The Five Year Forward view recognises the need to address this and includes the following commitment for people with severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar and psychotic disorders):

By 2020/21, 280,000 people living with severe mental illness (SMI) have their physical health needs met by increasing early detection and expanding access to evidence-based physical care assessment and intervention each year.

CCGs should offer NICE-recommended screening and access to physical care interventions to cover 30% of the population with SMI on the GP register in 2017/18, moving to 60% population from the following year. The checks are to be delivered across primary and secondary care.

In order to support progress with this commitment the Mental Health network held a Thames Valley wide workshop on 5 December 2018 in Reading.

At this workshop national and local leaders highlighted the case for change and progress towards the above Five Year Forward View goals. CCGs and Trusts have set up models for completing the health checks and whilst further embedding is needed, there now needs to be a focus on ensuring the interventions are in place to improve physical health and support is available to enable those with mental illness to access these.

A whole system approach is needed to this and at the workshop attendees from primary care, secondary care, local authority and voluntary sector heard evidence of the importance of physical activity for this group and heard about local initiatives where peer support and physical activity were having a positive impact on improving health.