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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 June 2006, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Fear over health of mentally ill
Fewer than a third of mental health patients had had check-ups
Many mental health patients have not had physical health check-ups, putting them at risk of illness, a study says.

The survey of 966 people with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, found 69% had not had check-ups to assess their physical state.

The study by seven NHS trusts - part of research funded by drug firm Lilly - found the patients had high smoking, blood pressure and obesity rates.

Campaigners said people with mental health problems needed regular checks.

The physical health of many people with severe mental illnesses is still not being adequately managed
Paul Corry, of Rethink

The results of the research, part of the Well-Being Support Programme designed to assess the physical health and lifestyle of those with mental health problems, were presented to the American Psychiatric Association.

Consultant community psychiatrist Dr David Yeomans, a supervisor for the research programme, said it was important mental health nurses also looked at the wider health needs of their patients.

"We have been able to identify the onset of disease in those with severe mental illnesses before complications arise. This shows the real life benefits of such schemes."

Tamsin Mitchell, a nurse adviser involved with the programme, said other mental health trusts should implement regular health checks and measures to improve physical health.

Quality of life

"It amazes me how simple interventions, such as swapping sugar for sweeteners, can work so well and improve a person's quality of life."

People with severe mental health problems tend to have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes and die between 10 and 15 years earlier than those not affected by such conditions.

Despite this, researchers found such patients were not being adequately monitored by those caring for them.

The study found half had high blood pressure and almost 50% smoked. Only 16% were reported to have good dietary habits.

Paul Corry, of mental health charity Rethink, said: "Physical decline can be as serious a risk as mental illness in those with severe mental illnesses.

"The physical health of many people with severe mental illnesses is still not being adequately managed.

"It is critical that annual physical health checks are built into ongoing management plans so that people with severe mental illnesses can optimise their quality of life and achieve a sense of physical and mental well-being."

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