People with mental health problems often have complex and long-term difficulties with their physical health such as weight gain, smoking and heart problems. They sometimes do not take care of themselves, have inactive lifestyles and may not be able to cope with daily life or work. People with mental health problems have higher rates of diabetes, lung disease, cancer, heart problems, HIV/Aids and other infectious diseases.
Physical health care monitoring can take a variety of forms from simple checks carried out by the person themselves to complex specific health checks carried out by health professionals. Monitoring helps identify current health problems and also anticipate future health problems.
In August 2006 the United Kingdom’s Department of Health issued guidance on how to provide better care for the physical health needs of people with serious mental illness. Spearhead Trusts, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and other organisations all promoted the use of physical health care monitoring for people with mental health problems.
This review intended to find evidence to support this guidance. The authors’ conclude that current guidance and practice on physical health monitoring lacks a firm basis in research and there is little evidence to support this growing trend. They based their conclusions on results from a search carried out for trials in 2012 which found no relevant randomised studies. Current monitoring is mainly based on the agreement of experts, medical experience and good intentions. This does not mean that physical health monitoring is invalid, wrong or not of benefit to the physical health of people with severe mental illness, only that there is as yet no definite proof. Physical health care monitoring has the potential and promise to improve quality of life and help people with mental health problems live longer, but at this stage the information is uncertain and the research evidence unclear.