People living with a mental illness have poorer physical health yet receive less and lower quality health care than the rest of the population.

In 2017 the National Mental Health Commission released the Equally well consensus statement: Improving the physical health and wellbeing of people living with mental illness in Australia. The consensus statement calls for better collaboration and coordination between governments, professional bodies, social and community services and other leaders in mental health to make the physical health of people living with mental illness a national priority. The consensus statement ultimately aims to reduce the life expectancy gap that exists between people living with a mental illness and the general population.

Achieving this requires the ongoing commitment to foundational mental health practice principles such as recovery-oriented practice, trauma-informed care and supported decision making as core elements of practice models at both the organisation and clinician levels. This framework outlines how this can be achieved in Victorian specialist mental health services.

Purpose

  • To support mental health services to make decisions about developing, implementing and reviewing policies, procedures and programs that help consumers to make decisions about addressing physical health issues.
  • To enable services to provide a positive experience of care and improve outcomes for consumers, with the support of families and carers.
  • To create a consistent approach to physical health care in Victorian specialist mental health services.

Scope

This framework applies to all Victorian specialist mental health services across different practice settings and all ages. The framework is intended to complement existing professional standards and related practice frameworks and adhere with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law regarding scope of practice for health practitioners.

What we know about physical health

A number of documents released recently in Australia highlight the interlinked issues associated with mental health and physical health. These issues exist across the general population, as well as for people living with a severe mental illness.

  • Australia's mental and physical health tracker describes Australia's performance in tackling the higher risk factors and incidence of preventable chronic physical disease among people with mental health conditions.
  • The Equally well consensus statement outlines a number of physical health conditions and their impact on people living with mental illness at the national level.
  • Victoria's mental health services annual report 2016-17 provides an overview of the information available on physical health issues for people with severe mental illness. This includes data on various aspects of our services and system, including aggregated data on emergency departments and area mental health services.