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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 10:04 GMT
Health check demand for mentally ill
Schizophrenia patient
Mentally ill suffer drug side effects
Everyone with severe mental illness should be given annual health MOTs by their GPs, a charity suggests.

The National Schizophrenia Fellowship (NSF) is urging the government to offer this service after its report found vulnerable people excluded from services.

The charity says people with mental illness like schizophrenia have a greater need for physical check-ups because of the side effects caused by prescribed drugs.

The NSF also accuses some GPs of not responding to requests from mental patients to check their physical health because they do not believe the validity of their ailments.

Self-neglect may lead to people rarely complaining about physical health problems and when they do, they are often ignored

Cliff Prior, NSF
NSF chief executive Cliff Prior said: "Mental health professionals must listen carefully and sensitively to concerns expressed about a person's health.

"It is also clear that in relation to physical health, as indeed in so many areas of life, social circumstances, discrimination and misunderstanding impact adversely upon those with severe mental illness.

"Self-neglect may lead to people rarely complaining about physical health problems and when they do, they are often ignored, disbelieved or dismissed as hypochondriacs."

Doesn't it make you sick? - a new report from the charity was based on the largest ever survey of people with severe mental illness - 15,000 people were sent questionnaires and 2,663 people replied.

The survey found that:-

  • 92% of people have or had experienced serious adverse physical reactions to anti-psychotic drugs
  • government health requirements for physical health needs to be met within primary care are failing and will not be met without investment in GPs
  • a widespread lack of confidence that health professionals will routinely address physical health needs
  • 74% of people with severe mental illness in institutions smoke, highlighting the need for specialist quit smoking initiatives

    People with mental illness are prone to drug and alcohol misuse, are more likely to smoke and take less exercise, which puts their general health at greater risk.

    Unemployment, poverty and general deprivation are often part of a downward spiral of social exclusion which serves to worsen their physical health.

    Studies have shown a far higher rate of visits to GPs (13-14 annually compared with an average rate of three) but indicate far fewer health promotion efforts than the general population.

    A large number of mentally ill patients smoke and they tend not to take enough exercise, which can lead to health problems.

    The NSF believes health checks would reduce the burden on the rest of the health service because their needs would be addressed by the GP, which would mean they are less likely to be hospitalised.

  • See also:

    07 Dec 01 | Health
    Schizophrenia 'linked to racism'
    10 Apr 01 | Health
    Virus link to schizophrenia
    08 Jul 01 | Health
    Schizophrenics denied best drugs
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