NHS England is urging health systems to ramp up physical health checks for people with severe mental illnesses to address a widening life expectancy gap caused by covid, according to a letter seen by HSJ.
In a letter circulated to integrated care system leads, chairs, mental health and community trust executives on Wednesday, national commissioners warn the impact of the pandemic may widen current gaps in life expectancy for people with SMI and learning disabilities even further, without “decisive and proactive action”.
The letter, circulated by national mental health director Claire Murdoch, learning disability and autism director Tom Cahill and inequalities director Bola Owolabi, quotes NHS data suggesting people with SMI are five-and-a-half times more likely to die prematurely and those with learning disabilities three times more likely to die from an avoidable cause of death.
It says: ”The health inequalities faced by people living with SMI and people with a learning disability are stark… The impacts of the pandemic will widen this gap further unless we take decisive and proactive action to address inequalities… These checks are a key lever to address the reduced life expectancy for both groups.”
It calls on primary care teams, already delivering thousands of covid vaccinations as part of the booster programme, to prioritise annual physical health checks alongside the rollout, “even as we continue with a level 4 national incident” caused by the omicron variant.
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Source: HSJ, 14 January 2022