People living with severe mental health illness are at risk of dying 15-20 years earlier than the general population.
Their physical health can sometimes be impacted by their mental health and vice versa. Getting the right care at the right time from the right professional is key.
Since introducing a quick and easy way for mental health teams to monitor the physical health of people’s severe mental illness:
- Diseases like cancer and diabetes have been identified earlier on and managed
- Side effects of medication are better monitored, and action taken to make adjustments to get better outcomes
- People are being referred to specialist services early to prevent their health and wellbeing getting worse
- People are supported to live longer, healthier and happier lives
Across the country, integrated care systems are looking to better join-up care to keep people as healthy and independent for as long as possible.
Sue Spooner and Spencer Dinnage work for the mental health and community service provider Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT). In this blog they discuss how community mental health teams are working differently by using technology to improve health outcomes for people with severe mental illness.
Since September 2022, mental health teams working in mid and south Essex have been using a new piece of kit that helps to take a full set of physical health observations during routine visits. From basic electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, to measuring weight and blood pressure, teams can now feed results straight back into the GP’s clinical system to support decision-making and monitor the person’s baseline health to help avert future health issues.
It’s been a real game-changer.
Often, people experiencing severe mental illness don’t go to the GP even if they know something isn’t right. Social exclusion, the stigma of diagnosis and the side effects of medication can all impact people’s overall health. That, coupled with unhealthy lifestyle behaviours means it’s so important to consider an individual’s holistic needs i.e. their social, mental, physical and cognitive health. The stats show there are very real dangers of ignoring physical health symptoms and not seeking advice when they should.
What’s different about the way we now work is that – in addition to supporting their mental health needs – we can help keep an eye on their physical health so they can get the help they need early on and enjoy a good quality of life. The kit makes it easy to record the information and instantly update the GP record in real time.
Mental health teams have relationships with the people they care for, aside from the obvious benefits of helping to record baseline information to prevent things like diabetes or a heart attack, we are empowered to help the individual and improve their quality of life – armed with data so that other services can be wrapped around the person.
A recent example that helps explain the benefits is a health check involving a new patient who had been referred to us by their GP. As we started to build trust regarding their experience of mental health, they mentioned chest pains that had been radiating down their arm. We were able to use the new kits to instantly send information to the GP who then referred him on for further investigations. This not only helped the client to access the care they needed but stopped an unnecessary A&E admission and helped to support the GP to make a clinical decision.
This is really important as it helps us to make crucial strides to reduce a known health inequality gap.
People living with severe mental illness (SMI) are:
- Two times more likely to have diabetes and also twice as likely to die of cancer
- Five times more likely to die of liver disease
- Three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease
Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK. The cost to the economy is estimated at £105 billion a year – roughly the cost of the entire NHS.
40 kits are now in use across mid and south Essex in areas including Chelmsford, Braintree Maldon , Basildon, Brentwood and Thurrock, also in Southend, Castle Point and Rochford
From the beginning of the year, thanks to the kits, there has been a 149% increase in the number of checks carried out compared to the number that were planned.
Watch the below video find out more.