Initiative to reduce health inequalities for people with mental health problems

By agency reporter
May 24, 2018

A major new initiative to tackle one of the biggest health inequalities has been launched by Centre for Mental Health, Kaleidoscope Health and Care and Rethink Mental Illness, in collaboration with more than 20 professional organisations, charities and health service bodies across the country.

Equally Well UK is a new collaborative to bring together organisations with a part to play in reducing the 15-20 year life expectancy gap facing people with a severe mental illness in Britain today. Based on a similar scheme running in New Zealand, Equally Well UK brings together organisations involved in mental health and physical health in a common effort to reduce the health gap.

Equally Well UK is already supported by major national bodies including NHS England, Health Education England, the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mind and the National Survivor and User Network.

Any organisation that supports the physical health of people with a mental illness can become a member of Equally Well UK. That includes national and local health service providers and commissioners, charities, professional bodies, training and education providers and many more.

Organisations joining Equally Well UK will be asked to make a pledge for how they will do their part to reduce the health gap. And in September, members will come together to produce a Charter for Equal Health to demonstrate their commitment to bringing about lasting change.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes, said: “People with a severe mental illness face a dramatically reduced life expectancy, mostly because of poor physical health. The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health committed the NHS to take action to tackle this shocking inequality. Equally Well UK will help to make that happen by creating concerted action across boundaries and, sharing stories of what works and building a nationwide movement for change.”

Dr Alan Cohen, representing the Royal College of GPs, said: “Too many people with a severe mental illness are dying from avoidable physical conditions that for too long have been ignored or inadequately managed by health services. As clinicians, it is time we all took responsibility for all aspects of the health of the people we serve. That means mental health professionals paying more regard to people’s physical health and other health professionals working effectively with people who happen to have a mental illness. Equally Well gives us a new way of coming together to help us all achieve that, in partnership with those living with a mental illness.”

Philippa Lowe is the Chair of the charity Rethink Mental Illness and has a son with schizophrenia. She says: “I remember  being very concerned about my son’s weight gain when he started his anti-psychotic medication. When I asked our then psychiatrist about it he said: 'Let's get the psychosis under control, then we'll think about his weight'. I now know that this wasn’t the right approach at all. Physical health should be monitored and encouraged alongside mental health from the word go, and so I’m pleased to see the Equally Well UK project making this a priority. The best medication for my son’s mental health, which has changed his life so positively, has been the worst for his weight. He now weighs twice what he should and the consequences for his health and life expectancy are scary to contemplate.”

  • The life expectancy of a person living with psychosis in the UK is 15-20 years shorter than average: most of this ‘gap’ is caused by poor physical health
  • People with psychosis are two to three times more likely to have diabetes than average
  • People with psychosis are two to three times more likely to have high blood pressure, heart attacks and/or strokes - cardiovascular disease.
  • Smoking rates among people with psychosis are between 50 and 80 per cent compared with 16 per cent of the general population
  • People with psychosis are more likely to die from cancer

* Rethink Mental Illness https://www.rethink.org/

[Ekk/6]

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