Physical health of those with mental ill-health ‘ignored’ claims new report

While this report sheds light on the important debate around better integration of care, the fact remains that 92% of people with a physical health problem receive the care they need, compared to just 26% of people with a mental illness.

To use this report as a call for a greater focus on people’s physical health conditions is perhaps short sighted. What’s needed is concerted action to address the inconsistencies of care between physical and mental health in a collaborative way, and at all levels within the NHS, rather than calling for one type of healthcare to take precedence over another.

The Cavendish Square Group is committed to challenging the notion that mental health is solely a secondary care issue. Between 30 – 50% of people are not acknowledged as having a mental health problem when they first visit a GP, meaning vital early intervention opportunities are being missed.

 

This is a life-threatening issue. Londoners with serious mental ill-health have a shorter life expectancy than the rest of the population – sometimes dying as much as a decade earlier.

Public Health England reports the main causes of death for people with a mental illness as heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, cancer and liver diseases – conditions which require consistent management of lifestyle and regular engagement with medical care. But mental and physical ill-health are intrinsically interrelated and the symptoms experienced by an individual during extended periods of mental ill-health can be a barrier to them seeking treatment for and managing physical illnesses. A more collaborative approach would assist providers to give the most appropriate care, whether the concern is mental, physical – or as we know is often the case - a combination of both.

 

Some key statistics on mental and physical health

  • Mental health problems substantially increase the cost of physical health care. Estimates suggest co-existing mental health problems cost the NHS £13.5 billion a year in extra spending on physical health. Nearly half of this total falls on general and acute hospitals. For a typical 500-bed general hospital, this is equivalent to an extra cost of around £25 million per year.
  • The life expectancy of people with mental ill-health is dramatically lower than average: men with serious mental health issues die on average 11 years earlier than those without, and women a decade earlier.

Interested in learning more about the integration of physical and mental healthcare? Dr Steven Reid, clinical director for psychological medicine at Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust explores how liaison psychiatry in acute settings can save lives and money in the London Mental Health Factbook.

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