CALLS have been made for action to reduce the increased risk of obesity, diabetes and other conditions faced by those with mental illnesses.
A range of experts spoke at a parity of esteem event organised by Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust on Friday (October 24) which focused on how physical and mental health could be put on a par.
Dr David Shiers, whose own daughter Mary has a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years less than her peers who do not have schizophrenia, said there was a ‘real opportunity’ to take an early intervention approach.
Mary spent time in an inpatient hospital in the 1990s, where he said it became very clear she had a ‘different destiny’ to her siblings and the potential for serious future physical illnesses started as she was heavily exposed to passive smoking and
was given extra helpings of pudding regularly.
On average, those with a psychotic illness are 15 per cent more likely to become obese than the average population and their chance of developing diabetes increases by 0.7 per cent each year.
“There is a sense of no one taking responsibility for this. These risks start really early so the big opportunity to improve it is very early on.
“If there is a knowledge these things happen and people are not doing anything about it, I think that’s a human rights issue.
“Mary was written off by a system nearly 20 years ago now but we have had a little thread of resistance and we never quite lost our hope.
“The big worry for us is the potential Mary has for developing a physical illness. It is difficult enough to deal with severe mental illness by itself.”
Dr Anthony Kelly, chair of the South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said he had been working to ensure physical and mental illnesses were ‘treated and accessed side by side’.
“It’s a different thing with physical illness, we jump straight in and get so truly involved. We do often forget a lot of these presentations ultimately involve quite a lot of emotional distress, I fear as GPs we are not recognising that.
“The physical illness produces emotional effects but the emotional effects also influence physical illnesses.”
In total between 12 and 18 per cent of all money the NHS spent on long-term conditions was associated with mental health, he
said, which amounted to £1 in every £8 which could be saved if the mental health issues were addressed.
He added because of the urgency of the problems, it could not become a ‘political issue’ or be delayed and needed to be addressed immediately.