The new government’s announcement to pay GPs to carry out health checks in people with severe mental illness, in an attempt to reduce mortality rates, will do little to improve the quality of life of the individuals concerned.
The New NHS Alliance is calling for the NHS to consider adopting a new approach to improving wellbeing and quality of life for people with severe mental health problems. We want primary care and other parts of the NHS to see people as having strengths, skills and abilities to offer. We want the NHS to work with them to enable them to employ these and develop purpose, meaning and control over their lives – rather than treating them like patients with problems to be fixed. We think GPs, nurses and others within primary care and beyond can play significant roles by adopting ‘asset-based’ approaches.
Heather Henry, New NHS Alliance co-chair says: “There is a gap in the delivery of services to meet the physical needs of people with severe mental illness. On the face of it, these checks don’t seem to recognise sufficiently the strong link between mind and body. In any case, we need to move away from a purely medical model of mental illness and understand what makes people live well rather than what makes them ill. I have worked with many men of working age with long term mental health problems – when they are approached to build on their strengths and skills rather than focusing on their weaknesses, their lives can be transformed. Everyone needs purpose in their lives, and need to feel wanted and cared about. This is more a role for the community which is why the New NHS Alliance is focusing on creating a partnership between GPs and the community they serve”.
Dr Mark Spencer, New NHS Alliance co-chair says: “As a practising GP, I’m very disappointed with this old-fashioned, medical model approach that will do nothing in the long run to improve people’s lives. Taking someone’s blood pressure and measuring their cholesterol completely misses the point of what’s important to someone suffering from mental illness. We need to think radically differently about what we offer people with severe mental illness, and how we support them to develop meaning and purpose in their lives. There are so many examples now of asset-based approaches and increasing evidence that they work. It’s about time the NHS started adopting them”.
Notes to Editors
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New NHS Alliance is a movement of people and organisations who are committed to building a sustainable, community-based health service. They are an entirely solutions focused organisation, unique in its approach bringing together more than 10,000 passionate individuals and organisations across primary care who believe innovation, connections and integration are key to the sustainability of a health service that remains free to all at the point of need. New NHS Alliance promote greater collaboration between organisations within the NHS and between the NHS, communities, local authorities, innovative enterprises and other local enablers of prevention and health creation.
The NHS is very good at treating many illnesses and there is a greater focus than in the past on preventing illness. But what about creating health? If we all understand and tap into the causes of wellbeing, could the NHS working with local partners create a ‘health’ service with a purpose of making people healthy and well? For more information, see New NHS Alliance briefing on Health Creation