Stop people dying 20 years too soon
Today sees the launch of the National Audit for Schizophrenia (NAS), a unique opportunity for people with schizophrenia to have their say on the care they receive. It also sees the launch of our new campaign to stop people with mental illness from dying 20 years too soon.
Over 6,000 people with schizophrenia were involved in the audit, which was carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness and other organisations.
The report, which comes hot on the heels of the Schizophrenia Commission report last month, highlights some really important issues for people with severe mental illness: poor prescription of medication, psychological therapies not being made available and people with schizophrenia not being consulted in decisions about their treatment.
However, the most alarming aspect of the report is what it reveals about how the physical health of people with schizophrenia is being neglected. Of the 6,000 people involved in the audit, only 29 percent had received a full physical health check for risk factors such as cardiometabolic disease. 43 percent of those surveyed had not even been weighed within the previous 12 months.
This is very worrying. We know already that people with severe mental illness die on average twenty years younger than the general population, mostly due to preventable physical conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
This urgently needs to be addressed. It doesn’t take much time or money for health professionals to carry out a proper physical health check, and it really is a disgrace that so many people with schizophrenia are not getting the basic physical health support that the NICE guidelines recommend.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and there are simple steps that professionals can take to make sure that people’s physical health needs are not overlooked. In the past year we’ve launched a free physical health check for health professionals to make sure physical health is properly monitored.
We’ve also held a number of physical health summits across England which gave us the chance to speak to hundreds people who use mental health services and health professionals about how we can improve physical health support for people with sever mental illness.
Time and time again, GPs, psychiatrists and nurses told us they feel unsure about their responsibilities when it comes to physical health, while many people with mental illness feel that their needs ‘fall between the gaps’.
With this in mind, we developed the ‘Integrated Physical Health Pathway’, a guide to help primary and secondary care professionals to work together to monitor people’s physical health. We hope this will encourage better communication and integration between primary and secondary care on physical health, and stop people with mental illness falling through the gaps – their lives depend on it.
You too can play a part by taking part in our new e-campaign and asking your MP to raise this issue with your mental health trust. Decision makers need to know that you care. Poor physical health and early death should not be an inevitable outcome of experiencing mental illness. It doesn’t need to be like this, and by working together we can raise our voices to make sure that things change.