LESS than a third of people with severe mental illness in Oxfordshire receive physical health checks that could prevent early death.

With only 29 per cent of patients receiving full examinations last year, charity Rethink Mental Illness says it is ‘unacceptable’ that the country is so far behind the NHS’s 60 per cent target.

NHS England data shows that 6,324 people had severe mental illness in the NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in 2019-20.

But only 1,815 received a full physical check-up.

This is down from the 31 per cent checked in 2018-19.

Physical health examinations include checks for alcohol consumption, blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and smoking status.

The most common check performed in Oxfordshire was for blood pressure, with 4,871 patients having results recorded.

A patient is recorded as receiving a full examination when they have undergone all six tests.

In England, 36 per cent of 444,972 people with severe mental illness received a full health check last year.

Danielle Hamm, associate director of campaigns and policy at Rethink Mental Illness, said more of the potentially life-saving appointments need to be carried out nationally.

She said: “People living with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder die on average 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population, largely due to preventable physical health conditions such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

“Physical health checks are therefore an important intervention to help reduce this inequality, by helping doctors to identify potential risks to physical health and provide subsequent care and treatment.

“It is unacceptable that we are still so far from the target set.”

Geoff Hayes, head of health policy and influencing at mental health charity Mind, said mental and physical health problems are treated separately ‘too often’.

He added: “This data shows that too many people with serious mental health problems are not receiving the physical health checks that they should.

“It’s important, even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, that services can adapt and be creative to try to establish where a person might best receive their physical health check and carry it out.

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“This is far too urgent an issue for people to have to wait until lockdown restrictions ease to be able to receive the care they deserve.”

In a report accompanying the latest statistics, NHS England said 30 CCGs did not submit any data or had no figures to submit.

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An NHS spokesman said: “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is important now more than ever that the local NHS services adapt and offer flexible options to keep people safe from the virus while supporting the physical health of people with severe mental health problems.”

Advice on mental health can be found at oxfordshiremind.org.uk