Action to tackle early deaths of people living with severe mental illness

A joint report published today by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges sets out essential actions to improve the physical health of adults with severe mental illness across the NHS. 
Although the health of the general population in the UK has improved significantly over the past 50 years, the life expectancy of adults with severe mental illness (SMI) in 2016 is lagging behind. Nearly half (46%) of people with SMI have a long-term physical health condition and are at risk of losing on average 10-20 years of their lifespan due to physical ill-health. 
The report, ‘Improving the physical health of adults with severe mental illness: essential actions’ was written in partnership with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal Colleges of General Practitioners, Nursing, Pathologists, Physicians, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Public Health England. The report makes practical recommendations for changes that will help adults with SMI to receive the same standards of physical healthcare as the general population and reduce the risk of premature death. 
The report makes eight recommendations to key bodies and inspectorates, including:
The creation of a new national steering group to lead and link key stakeholders with experts from the professions so that important aspects of physical healthcare are addressed and monitored at a national level.
Each mental health service, acute hospital, general medical practice or GP federation should develop a physical health strategy for patients with SMI which is approved by the board and reviewed annually; they should also appoint a lead clinician at board level to be responsible for its implementation.
Training for healthcare staff should be reviewed to ensure healthcare professionals are equipped to fulfil the physical health needs of people with SMI, such as being able to recognise physical illness and take appropriate action.
Infrastructure should be improved; e.g. systems for recognising acute illness; improved Information Technology to help with meeting current health-needs; better access to investigation results to help to improve standards of both physical and mental healthcare.
Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Dame Sue Bailey commented: ‘Health professionals should have the same ambitions for the physical health of people with severe mental illness as for the general population.  The ambition of this report is to provide a focused programme of actions that can be taken across the system, from training to leadership and best practice in care provision, to reduce preventable premature mortality in this vulnerable group’. 
David Branford, English Pharmacy Board Member, Royal Pharmaceutical Society added: ‘We urgently need to see better integration of mental and physical health services, so that people are treated as a whole. The majority of premature deaths in people with severe mental illness are caused by potentially changeable health-risk behaviours, such as smoking, alcohol and addictions, lack of exercise and obesity. Targeted intervention to support people with mental health problems with smoking cessation, weight management; addiction, advice about physical activity and medicine optimisation are all necessary and can be delivered by pharmacists. Pharmacists should work closely with the healthcare team to optimise the use of medicines and to be able to monitor the physical side effects of the medicines prescribed for physical and mental conditions.’