25 October 2016

Health Professions Calling for Greater Leadership and Action to Tackle Early Deaths of People Living with Severe Mental Illness

A joint report published today by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of MedicalRoyal Colleges sets out essential actions to improve the physical health of adults with severe mental illness across the NHS. 

Although the health of the general population in the UK has improved significantly over the past 50 years, the life expectancy of adults with severe mental illness (SMI) in 2016 is lagging behind. Nearly half (46%) of people with SMI have a long-term physical health condition and are at risk of losing on average 10-20 years of their lifespan due to physical ill-health.

The report, ‘Improving the physical health of adults with severe mental illness: essential actions’ was written in partnership with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal Colleges of General Practitioners, Nursing, Pathologists, Physicians, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Public Health England. The report makes practical recommendations for changes that will help adults with SMI to receive the same standards of physical healthcare as the general population and reduce the risk of premature death.

The report makes eight recommendations to key bodies and inspectorates, including:

  • The creation of a new national steering group to lead and link key stakeholders with experts from the professions so that important aspects of physical healthcare are addressed and monitored at a national level.
  • Each mental health service, acute hospital, general medical practice or GP federation should develop a physical health strategy for patients with SMI which is approved by the board and reviewed annually; they should also appoint a lead clinician at board level to be responsible for its implementation.
  • Training for healthcare staff should be reviewed to ensure healthcare professionals are equipped to fulfil the physical health needs of people with SMI, such as being able to recognise physical illness and take appropriate action.
  • Infrastructure should be improved; e.g. systems for recognising acute illness; improved Information Technology to help with meeting current health-needs; better access to investigation results to help to improve standards of both physical and mental healthcare.

Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Dame Sue Bailey commented: "Health professionals should have the same ambitions for the physical health of people with severe mental illness as for the general population.  The ambition of this report is to provide a focused programme of actions that can be taken across the system, from training to leadership and best practice in care provision, to reduce preventable premature mortality in this vulnerable group."

Professor Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "Patients are living longer and reaping the health benefits of advances in medicine over the last 50 years, and those with serious mental illness must not left behind. A key part of this is ensuring that patients with serious mental illness maintain good physical health and wellbeing.

"This report drives home the need for more mental health services in the community, and for GPs and our teams to have better, easier and quicker access to these.

"One of the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View is for every GP practice to have access to a dedicated Mental Health therapist – and this will be essential in making sure our patients with serious mental illness receive optimal physical and mental health care.

"Mental health is an enduring priority for the RCGP and we have developed a number of practical resources to support GPs and other healthcare professionals to deliver the best possible care to our patients with mental health conditions. Promoting physical activity and lifestyle is also a priority, and we are working to support GPs to do this, in the best interests of all our patients."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.