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People with mental illness denied access to care

Less than half of people with severe mental illness are getting the health checks GPs are meant to provide, according to new research by Rethink.

Rethink welcomed the new government recognition of the problem in its report Health inequalities: progress and next steps, but warned that urgent action is needed to stop thousands of people with severe mental illness dying unnecessarily.

Rethink chief executive Paul Jenkins said: "People with a severe mental illness die, on average, 10 years younger than other people. Not because of the mental illness, but because people are denied access to the cancer, heart disease and diabetes services the rest of the population now take for granted.

"The government has opened its eyes to this problem, which is a step forward, but smoking rates and obesity levels remain unacceptably high. Too little imagination and too little cash is being invested in bringing them down. The government has still not implemented recommendations from the ground-breaking Disability Rights Commission report two years ago, which called for the scandal of poor physical health amongst people with severe mental illness to be tackled without delay."

Rethink called for:

  • Implementation of all recommendations from the Disability Rights Commission "Unequal Treatment" report of 2006.
  • GPs to be incentivised to promote physical healthchecks.
  • Renewed investment in the Well-Being Nurses programme, which is designed to enable people with severe mental illness to tackle physical health issues.
  • Partnership programmes with the voluntary sector to roll out mental health-specific versions of existing physical health programmes, such as smoking cessation clinics.
  • PCTs to provide mental health inpatient wards to provide specialist physical healthcare teams.