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Mental health patients receive substandard care

elderly woman receiving careA new study suggests that mental health patients are receiving substandard medical care for physical conditions.

People with severe mental illness die on average 20 years younger than the general population, according to the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

And now, a report in the British Journal of Psychiatry has warned that mental health patients are being increasingly overlooked when it comes to their physical health.

Substandard medical care

A team of researchers from the University of Leicester analysed studies of nearly 2 million people to investigate concerns that mental health patients receive substandard medical care.

These studies looked at the prescription of medication for a range of conditions, including cardiovascular health, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and HIV.

The researchers concluded that people with severe mental illness appear to be receiving significantly less medication for certain medical disorders, particularly for cardiovascular problems.

Under-prescribed drugs also included those for high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and statins.

Lack of confidence

Dr Alex Mitchell, senior lecturer at the university, believes mental health specialists are wary when it comes to treating other conditions.

Dr Mitchell said: "Mental health professionals may not feel confident in prescribing medication to treat physical problems."

In addition, he warned that hospital specialists may lack knowledge about the interaction of mental health medication with other drugs, such as those for cardiovascular health.

Dr Mitchell and his researchers have urged clinicians to prioritise physical illness in people with mental health problems to prevent future under-treatment.

Mental illness in the UK

According to the Department of Health, one in four adults will experience mental illness at some point during their lifetime.

Many insurers are improving their psychiatric cover in recognition of the impact of mental illness on our society.

From January 2013, Aviva is doubling its psychiatric out-patient limit from £1,000 to £2,000 per person per policy year.

If you want to be covered for private mental health care, compare health insurance policies with full psychiatric cover.

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Chloe Hibbert

Adam Jolley

Chloe Hibbert covers health-related news and features for Chloe started out in the industry after graduating in English Literature.

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