The British Medical Association’s May 2014 report “Recognising the importance of physical health in mental health and intellectual disability” has included our work to improve the physical health of people with severe and enduring mental illness as a case study.
As the BMA report stresses, people with severe and enduring mental illness (SMI) have a reduced life expectancy compared to the general population. This premature mortality is largely due to poor physical health; people with SMI are often overweight through a lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet and medication-induced weight gain, there is also a high prevalence of smoking in this population. These factors can lead to an increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic disorders.
As Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins states in the foreword to the report, “what is lacking is a clear range of actions that will help ensure that ‘parity of outcomes’ across physical health, mental health, and intellectual disability is achieved in practice.” Our work with Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust (MMHSCT) and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre tackles this issue head on by developing and testing the implementation of effective and sustainable ways to improve the physical health of people with SMI who are under the care of the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) of MMHSCT.
The most notable element of our work with MMHSCT is the introduction of a Community Physical Health Coordinator (CPHC) within CMHTs. The CPHC’s role is to liaise, discuss and co-ordinate the physical health management of people under the care of the CMHT. They do this with GPs via multi-disciplinary team meetings.
The top-line benefits of this project are:
The establishment of a clear joint responsibility for the physical health of people with SMI by strengthening the co-ordination and collaboration between primary care and CMHTs
Better prevention and control of physical health issues experienced by people with SMI (e.g. cardiovascular disease or diabetes)
Timely and patient-centred access to health promotion services (e.g. smoking cessation)
The breakdown of health inequalities experienced by people with mental illness.
MMHSCT are now spreading this new way of working to every CMHT across the Trust, spanning North, Central and South Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups. For more information please contact Michael Spence, Programme Manager, or read the pilot project evaluation report.