Not enough mentally ill Wigan patients are getting full check ups, new figures reveal
Little more than a third of people living with severe mental illness in Wigan received a full physical check last year that could prevent early death – despite an NHS target of 60 per cent.
The Mental Health Foundation said the low number of checks across England was “shocking but not surprising”, with mental illness often overshadowing their physical health, even though the two should be treated equally.
NHS England data shows that there were 2,895 people with severe mental illness in the NHS Wigan Borough CCG area in 2018-19, but only 1,112 received a full physical check-up.
This was 38.4 per cent of people with mental illness covered by the CCG, despite the target being set at 60 per cent, although this is considerably higher than the national average at present and local health chiefs said today that they were looking to drive up that figure higher this year.
Physical health examinations include checks for alcohol consumption, blood glucose and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body mass index and smoking status.
The most common check performed in Wigan was smoking with 2,491 of patients having their levels recorded.
Meanwhile cholesterol was the least common, with 1,648.
Just one of the CCGs in the country which submitted their data met the target: NHS City and Hackney CCG.
NHS West Hampshire failed to carry out the full checks for any the 4,329 people with serious mental illness in the area.
NHS England has published guidance to improve the quality of physical health care for people with severe mental illness in primary care, to help ensure that at least 280,000 examined each of the next three years.
However, according to the most recent data, which covered the 12 months to June this year, only 144,160 people out of 489,185 received a full health check last year: which is 29.5 per cent.
Wigan Borough CCG (the GP organisation) and North West Boroughs Healthcare (which provides mental health care) issued a joint statement in response to the findings.
It read: “It is important that people with severe mental illnesses get the support they need to look after their physical health as well as their mental health.
“North West Boroughs Healthcare and Wigan Borough CCG, through local GP practices, work together to offer patients with a severe mental illness annual checks on things like cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure.
“Nearly 40 per cent of patients with severe mental health illnesses in the Wigan borough received a full physical check last year, and we are working hard across the borough to make sure that more get checked this year.
“This includes plans to review the way people are invited to annual physical health checks, what happens at the appointment and how it is recorded.”
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: “People with severe mental illnesses lose as much as 17 years of natural life expectancy compared with the general population.
“Some of this may be directly due to their mental illness, but much is likely to be the result of the neglect of their physical health.
“It is all too easy for professionals to overlook the physical health of a person presenting with serious mental ill-health.
“But it is vital to treat both mental and physical symptoms with equal care and to support people with serious mental health problems to adopt and sustain a healthier lifestyle.”
NHS England has said that it is committed to “leading work to reduce premature mortality among people living with severe mental illness”, reducing the risk from preventable serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
An NHS spokesperson said that, while fewer than a third of people received all of the checks, 72 per cent received blood pressure checks, 69 per cent received smoking status checks and 68 per cent had an alcohol consumption test.
“The NHS is investing almost £1bn to improve community mental health services, so an extra 390,000 patients with severe mental illness will receive a check by 2023-24, and it is now up to CCGs to deliver on this promise,” the NHS added.