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Stigma gives mental health patients 'unfair deal' in healthcare

Many people with serious mental illness are missing out on simple tests such as blood pressure checks due to being unfairly “stigmatised” by  healthcare professionals.

This is despite a greater susceptibility to cardiovascular disease in those suffering from serious mental health problems.  

Speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioner's Annual General Meeting, Birmingham Unversity's professor of primary care, Professor Helen Lester called on general practices to make people with serious mental illnesses their “core business”.

She claimed people with mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are getting an “unfair deal” from healthcare and that “subtle changes” in the attitudes and actions of health professionals could “significantly” improve the quality and length of people's lives with serious mental health problems.  

“The health and health care of people with serious mental illness is our business,” said Professor Lester.

“People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder need better care than they currently receive. There are many things that cost little, that are based on simple observations not rocket science, that we could introduce tomorrow into routine general practice.”

Professor Lester recommended practices allocate patients with psychosis longer appointments or the last appointment of the day as she claimed consultations were not always long enough to address the “myriad of physical, mental and social issues”.

She also encouraged healthcare professionals to examine their own attitudes towards people with serious mental illness to ensure they always go that extra mile.