Published on: 2 November 2023

People who have a serious mental health illness are being urged to ask for their annual physical health check. Discussion.jpg

Carers and health professionals are also being encouraged to help drive up the numbers of checks done in Derbyshire.

A series of new Derbyshire-based video training resources launched on 10 October to help encourage patients, carers and clinicians to take up and offer the annual physical health checks.

The videos were commissioned following research from Derbyshire mental health engagement service Mental Health Together, which is part of Healthwatch. This examined why people with serious mental illness often do not take up their annual physical health check.

Evidence shows that people who have certain mental health illnesses are more likely also to develop physical health issues and that life expectancy can be 15 to 20 years less, compared to everyone else. This difference is largely due to preventable or treatable physical health problems.

Health and care leaders in Derbyshire now want to ensure every eligible patient knows they can request a physical health check.

The numbers of people who had all six elements of the health check fell during the covid-19 pandemic but have since begun to rise again.

For the period March to June 2023 51.9% of eligible people received all six elements of the health check. Mental health leaders now want to see that percentage increase to 70% by April 2024.

Around 8,000 people in Derbyshire are recorded as have a serious mental illness on GP registers in Derbyshire.

Mental health conditions where people should get an annual check include:

  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • psychotic disorders
  • depression that is so severe that it impacts on your daily life, or on the daily life of your family or carers

Having an annual health check will help provide the information a patient needs about their physical health. They can then use this information to find out how to address any concerns, and where to get support and further help.

The check-up is performed by a GP practice team once a patient has been stable and discharged from mental healthcare services.  If the patient is either recently diagnosed or still receiving mental healthcare from Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, the checks are performed by the trust's doctors and nurses.

The doctor will screen for:

  • blood pressure
  • height and weight
  • blood glucose levels
  • blood cholesterol
  • smoking levels
  • alcohol consumption

These assessments will be able to identify the individual’s potential risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease and liver disease.

The doctor will then be able to offer specific advice on how to minimise these risks.

The health check is also an opportunity to speak to the GP or doctor about any physical health issues or concerns you may have.

Mental Health Together asked about people's experience of taking up the annual physical health check and it found:

  • users often lacked confidence or motivation to ask for the test
  • users didn't know about it, or were confused about what it is
  • users were often concerned about the side effects of medication
  • users want carers to be included in communication with patients

The group recommended:

  • more training and better use of resources for GP practices
  • better and more personalised communication between the GP practice and the patient

Dr Sohrab Panday is mental health clinical lead for NHS Derby and Derbyshire and is a practising GP at Clay Cross Medical Centre in Chesterfield. He appears in the training videos to answer questions put by service users.

He said: "People with severe mental illness are among some of the most vulnerable in society.

"They face many challenges and are at greater risk of developing physical illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. However, thankfully it is possible to reduce the risks with the right advice and support.

"These patients and their trusted carers have a right to be fully informed about their physical health. They should be empowered to live the happy, healthy, and even longer life they deserve.

"We are proud to launch this new initiative. The promotional videos will help to raise the awareness and uptake of these vitally important health checks.  I encourage anyone who is eligible to contact their GP practice who will be able to advise on booking a health check."

A playlist of shorter videos has also been created in alternative languages on the Derbyshire Healthcare YouTube page.