Patients with mental illness 'under-treated for other conditions', researchers warn

Patients with severe mental illness are less likely to be prescribed treatments for physical health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, a large meta-analysis has shown.

Professor Helen Lester: urged GPs to make mental health 'core business'
Professor Helen Lester: urged GPs to make mental health 'core business'

University of Leicester researchers found patients with schizophrenia received around 12% lower quantities than expected of ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and statins.

They said this may be due to under-treatment of co-morbid conditions, although they acknowledged that some specialists may have concerns about interactions with mental health medication.

The researchers called on clinicians to prioritise physical health issues among these patients to avoid their other health needs being overlooked.

The findings come after Professor Helen Lester, RCGP mental health commissioning lead,  told the college’s annual general meeting in November that GPs need to make people with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder their ‘core business’.

In the study, researchers analysed 61 studies into the prescription of 12 medicine classes for cardiovascular health, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and HIV.

They found that patients with severe mental illness were under-treated by 10%, schizophrenia by 12% and other mental health conditions by 8%.

Lead author Dr Alex Mitchell, a consultant at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said the differences were due to prescribing, not compliance: ‘Mental health professionals may not feel confident in prescribing medication to treat physical problems and hospital specialists may be worried about interactions of mental health medication.

‘However we cannot rule out the possibility that medical conditions are being under-treated where they co-exist with mental health problems.’

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