Authors: Elizabeth Wallace
The lifespan of people with severe mental illness (SMI) is shorter compared to the general population. This excess mortality is mainly due to physical illness. (De Hert et al 2011) Mental health services should be able to provide at least a standard routine assessment of their patients, in order to identify or suspect the presence of physical health problems. (Maj, M 2009) The first step in addressing the gap between psychiatric and health management is to integrate physical health into mental health planning. (Miller, H 2008) The paper provides an overview of the innovative nurse led Physical Health Program which is integrated into the core business of a community mental health clinic within Melbourne’s public health service. The Program received recognition as Gold Winner in the Excellence in Person Centred Care category at the Victorian Public Health Awards and has been running for two years, providing physical health screening, signposting and individual interventions to consumers with severe mental illness. Dedicated nursing roles and the development of a unique approach provides a barrier free long term care model which has shown to be effective in engaging consumers in meeting their physical health goals. The model, which is being replicated across the service, showcases best practice, the value of collaborative working with our community health and primary care partners, and the substantial outcomes that can be achieved when a mental health nurses takes the lead in innovation and change.
Keywords: Mental Health, Physical Health, Innovation,Mental Health Nursing, Cardiovascular Health and Best Practice