text reads: Annual Physical Health Checks for People with Severe Mental Illness
timbrudenellstraw April 17, 2024

Annual Physical Health Checks for People with Severe Mental Illness

Do you work with or support someone who has a Severe Mental Illness (SMI)?

Did you know they are eligible for a free physical health check at their GP surgery every year?

People with a Severe Mental Illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia, bipolar or other psychoses, often experience poor physical health and undiagnosed/untreated physical health conditions because of the focus on their mental health.

People living with SMI have:

  • 6.6 times increased risk of respiratory disease
  • 6.5 times increased risk of liver disease
  • 4.1 times increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 2.3 times increased risk of cancer
  • are three times more likely to lose their natural teeth.

What is a physical health check?

An annual physical health check helps to identify any physical health problems early and ensure access to appropriate interventions.

A full check will include:

  • A blood pressure check
  • Height and weight / BMI
  • A blood sample to check the level of glucose (sugar) and level of cholesterol
  • Questions about whether they smoke and how much alcohol they drink
  • Questions about diet and exercise and any substance misuse.

Physical health checks will normally take place in the GP surgery or in the community mental health service and take 30-45 mins. If the check identifies any areas of concern, the patient will be given information and advice and may be referred on for an appropriate follow up intervention such as smoking cessation or a diabetes prevention programme.

Could you support someone to access their health check?

Many people living with SMI may be unaware they should be receiving an annual physical health check and why it is important. They may also be unaware  they are on an ‘SMI register’ and what this means. You can support someone to access their health check by asking them if they have attended a health check before, if they have received an invitation from the GP surgery, or by encouraging them to take up the offer, or support them to call the GP surgery for an appointment.

Further information

Physical Health checks for SMI is a national NHS programme – information can be found here.

A useful training video on the physical health of people with SMI has been produced by the South East Clinical Network and includes downloadable handouts for trainees – click here

Rethink have developed some useful patient information resources, including a downloadable patient leaflet and booklet for health checks, available here.