Severe mental illness and physical health checks
This information is for:
- anyone diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other psychosis or is having lithium therapy, and
- their carers, friends and family.
Why do I need a physical health check?
You might be diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other psychosis or be having lithium therapy. If so, NHS England say you should receive a full physical health check each year from a medical professional, like your GP or a practice nurse.
Also, you should be on your GP surgery’s severe mental illness register. If you’re on the register, you should receive an invite for a full physical health check at least once a year.
The health checks are important. Living with a severe mental illness means that you can be more likely to develop physical health issues than the general population. Everyone’s situation is different, but we know that good mental and physical health go hand in hand.
A physical health check is an important first step towards taking charge of your physical health and being as well as you can be.
You can download a PDF version of this information here.
You can share this information with anyone who you think may be entitled to a check.
What is your physical health check tool and how can it help me?
Our tool is designed to support you before, during and after your physical health check.
The tool is yours to keep, personalise and use as you go through the process of receiving your check. You can fill it in on your computer or print it out if you want to.
It can be used to help you, your carer and health professionals to record:
- the different results of your check,
- follow-up support or treatment, and
- future appointments.
Also, the tool has information about other routine health checks that you may be entitled to.
Here you can download the Physical health check tool.
Frequently asked questions
What does a physical health check involve?
The physical health check is to help pick up on signs that you may be at risk of diabetes, stroke or heart problems. Early action can help to stop these issues becoming more serious.
A full check involves 6 different elements.
- Blood pressure. Your blood pressure will be checked.
- Height and weight. You will be asked your height and be weighed during your appointment.
- Blood glucose. A blood sample will be taken for a blood test, where the level of glucose in your blood will be checked. Glucose is the main type of sugar in your blood.
- Blood lipid. A blood sample will be taken for a blood test, where the level of cholesterol in your blood will be checked.
- Smoking. You will be asked whether you smoke.
- Alcohol. You will be asked whether you drink alcohol, and if so, how much.
Details of how these checks are done are available in our physical health check tool.
Who will do my physical health check?
This will depend on the arrangements in your area. You might get your check:
- in your GP surgery from a GP or practice nurse, or
- from another health professional in a different setting, such as your local mental health service.
You can ask your GP surgery about this.
A relative or friend is my carer. Can they come with me to the appointment?
Yes, they should be allowed to join you at your physical health check appointment if you need their support.
I’ll find it difficult to travel to the appointment. What can I do?
If you can go to your appointment, but need help with travel, you can:
- check whether your local council provides a community transport service or has information on providers. These may be run by local charities, and
- see if you qualify for the NHS Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS) for people who have a low income or claim certain benefits. You can read more about the scheme by clicking the link below.
Can I receive my check at home?
You might live with a mental or physical illness or disability that means you have difficulty leaving home.
You should be offered a physical health check at home or a setting that you’re able to go to.
The NHS has a legal obligation under the Equality Act to make what’s known as reasonable adjustments for you in these circumstances. So, by arranging a physical health check at your home they are reasonably adjusting their normal approach.
You can find out more information about reasonable adjustments in our information on ‘Discrimination and mental health’ by clicking here.
I’m ready to take the first step. How can I request my check?
To get your check you can contact your GP surgery and say:
- you live with severe mental illness, and
- you would like to book your annual physical health check.
You can ask:
- where you’ll need to go for your appointment,
- how long you’ll have to wait for the appointment to come through, and
- how long the check will take.
You can also ask if you’re on your GP surgery’s severe mental illness register. If you’re not you can ask to be added to make sure the surgery invites you to your annual health check.
Also, if you’re supported by an NHS community mental health team, you can ask staff about how to get your physical health check.
I’m having problems getting my check. What can I do?
You can do the following things. You can ask the person who cares for you, or a relative or friend to help you, if necessary.
Contact your GP surgery
You can say:
- you live with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or other psychosis,
- you are entitled to an annual physical health check because of that, and
- NICE recommend that people who live with severe mental illness have regular health checks.
NICE stands for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. They provide evidence-based guidance about treatment and support to the NHS.
If you’re unhappy with the service you received from your doctor, you can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
PALS can try to help you sort out your problem or explain the complaints procedure. You can search for your local service by following this website link:
Get the help of an advocate
You can use a community advocate to help talk to your GP surgery. Community advocates can help you to make your voice heard. Community advocacy isn’t available in all areas of England.
You can get help from an NHS complaints advocate if you want to make a complaint. This type of advocacy is available in all areas of England.
You can find more information about ‘Advocacy’ by clicking here.
You can make a complaint if you’re unable to get your physical health check or you’re having other issues with the NHS.
There will be details on your local NHS trust website about how to make a complaint.
You can get help with this from PALS or your local NHS Complaints advocacy service.
You can find more information about ‘Complaints about the NHS or social services’ by clicking here.
What happens after my physical health check?
Receiving your check should only be the start of your journey towards taking charge of your physical health.
You and your health professional might identify actions that need to be taken. Your health professional should explain any recommended treatment and support options.
Depending on the arrangements in your area, you may be able to get follow-up support such as:
- exercise schemes,
- weight management support,
- cooking classes,
- dietary advice,
- support to stop smoking or to drink less alcohol, or
- a personal health budget, which can support you to take positive steps around your physical health. Only certain people can have a personal health budget. You can find out about them by clicking on the following link:
You can ask your health professional about the above support if it’s appropriate to you.
GPs have enough on their plate. I don’t want to bother them by asking for a check!
GPs have a lot of work to do, and it is understandable that you might worry about asking for a routine appointment.
GPs have been asked to provide these checks by NHS England. Although they are routine appointments, this doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
The checks help prevent potential physical health issues from getting worse. Taking early action can also help to save you and your GP time in the future.
© Rethink Mental Illness 2021
Last updated September 2021
Next update September 2024
Version number 1
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