More coordinated working between GPs and psychiatrists is needed to halt premature mortality in people with mental health issues, two Royal Colleges claim.
People with serious mental health problems die 1-20 years earlier than the rest of the population on average, with over 33,000 dying prematurely each year.
A joint statement from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Royal College of Psychologists (RCPsych) calls for a "bold new approach" to improving the physical health of people with mental health problems.
The groups claim that unless this is tackled genuine parity of esteem will never be achieved.
NHS resources should be "rebalanced" to provide better care in the community for people with mental health problems, the groups said.
The Colleges believe that patients should benefit from:
- More time to discuss, plan and manage their long-term care in consultation with GPs, psychiatrists and other health professionals in the community.
- Services which are better coordinated with one another, and around patients’ lives, with health professionals from different disciplines – including GPs and psychiatrists – given the time and resources to develop more effective ways of working together.
- Better continuity of care, with patients able to see members of the same team if they wish.
- More care delivered closer to home outside hospitals, and expanded outreach services to those who need it.
As a first step, the RCGP and RCPsych have made joint pledges which include:
- Raising awareness of the importance of improving the physical health of patients with mental health problems.
- Continuing to make efforts to embed the Lester UK Adaptation: Positive Cardiometabolic Health Resource into clinical practice.
- Committing to working together with the College for Mental Health Pharmacy and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to review shared care of the prescribing of psychotropic medicines and any professional training needs in this area.
- Sharing examples of good practice and focusing on particular areas of care such as smoking cessation support, emphasising the importance of regular physical health screening of patients with serious mental illness.
- Committing to working with the voluntary sector, service users and carers, where appropriate.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said it is a "travesty" that people with mantle health issues die up to 20 years earlier than others of the same age and background.
She said: "Early intervention and prevention is the key when dealing with mental health issues and helping patients manage their condition, and GPs play an integral role in looking after patients in their local communities and making sure that they have access to the best care and joined-up services.
“As generalists, we can ensure that they are looked after holistically and that their physical health needs, as well as their mental health, are given attention and monitored."
Professor Sue Bailey, president of the RCPsych said: “Our focus is physical health care of all people with mental health problems in our communities, and some of our work will be undertaken with other professionals, such as pharmacists and pathologists, as well as with people with lived experience.
"It is time to rebalance funding towards the holistic care of all patients, and we will continue to make this case, although I hope one day we will no longer need to do so.”