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Initiative seeks to reduce early deaths among mentally ill

Clinicians are to give mentally ill patients additional checks to help reduce the number who die young unnecessarily, officials have said.

Hundreds of thousands of people with serious mental health problems are dying of the same conditions as the general population but 15 years earlier, NHS England said.

“We are committed to making sure that mental health is treated the same way as physical health”

Geraldine Strathdee

Those with serious mental issues have the same time life expectancy as the general population did in the 1950s.

Now health officials are trying to stem the tide of avoidable deaths by offering all mental health patients “lifestyle MoTs” as well as assessing their psychological needs, NHS England has announced.

The health authority said that mental health trusts in England will now receive financial rewards for checking whether patients smoke, have poor diets or have problems with their weight, blood sugar and blood pressure. They must also ensure any identified problems are treated.

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 with great support from partners and the field.

NHS England

Geraldine Strathdee

“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,” she said.

“We are starting by targeting in-patients who we know are most at risk, and where there are major opportunities to increase knowledge about healthy lifestyles and support smoking cessation,” she added.

“They are also in the best position to receive both assessments and treatment for those common conditions that are killing our patients 14 to 20 years early.”

Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “I want to build a fairer society where people with mental health problems get the same quality of health care as everyone else.

Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb

“Through the Mandate, we’ve asked NHS England to make real progress towards equality for mental health by March 2015 and I welcome this initiative, which is a hugely positive step forward.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • In order to address the holistic needs of all patients, nursing education programs need to redesign curriculums to ensure all patients, regardless of the healthcare setting in which they present, receive comprehensive care that addresses both psychosocial and physiological needs. Individuals experience mental health issues across all settings and the practice of treating "mental health nursing" as a separate specialty needs to be re-examed. Individuals with major mental health problems have complex neurobiological syndromes that impact psychological and physiological function. All bedside nurses should be prepared to provide safe, effective care to address these needs. Nurses in mental health settings frequently lose the skills necessary to address physiological needs, focusing instead on behavioral interventions.
    The practice of separating "psych" patients from those patient's experiencing "medical" issues is a key factor in the disparity of care. As well, most patients with medical issues are experiencing some degree of alteration in psychosocial function. When nurses are taught that these issues are better addressed in other settings or by mental health professionals key opportunities for achieving better health outcomes are lost.
    Psychosocial nursing is a fundamental skill, necessary for all nurses regardless of the specialty in which they work. Nurses who elect to specialize in mental health need to maintain the skills necessary to address physiological needs.

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  • This is a great development, however I feel that whilst in acute mental health services have a great deal of specialists I think there needs to be a shift in medical provision to have dedicated GP sessions within our units. I say this as within my unit our MDT have to write to GP's for any non urgent referrals to made to acute services

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  • I would be interested to see the content of a "lifestyle MOTs" as a nurse in mental health who regularly does physical helath screening checks on our service users. Would i be able to get theses details to see how our trust can update what we are already doing.

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  • judy rolph - so agree.
    As a nurse who lived successfully with a mental health issue until 'out-ed' in the workplace, I have now experienced:
    1) assumption that any symptom must be MH-related meaning MH nurse me that new breathlessness/exhaustion when had always exercised 2-3 times a week were "motivation and you need to do more exercise" when my Hb was 8 (!)
    2) A&E ignoring bradycardia/hypertension/ photophobia/retching due to a physical issue and telling me to 'shut up, I'm busy with people who are really ill' and then presenting me with a tablet and saying 'take this' (no explanation, but when asked was told was 'it's diazepam because you're anxious' despite having spent no time with me, and the other symptoms).

    What happened to the holistic/biopsychosocial mantra that was drummed into me when I trained 25 years ago? It's not new, and it's not rocket science, to appreciate that all aspects of health interlink - physical/emotional/social

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