International studies consistently demonstrate that individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness (SMI) have an increased risk of co-morbid physical health problems and premature death. During the past decade, government policy in the UK has focused on improving the physical health of those with SMI. Despite this, international research has continued to report barriers to accessing appropriate services. These have been identified as emanating from service users and professionals alike, and also from institutional bureaucracy. Most of this research has reported difficulties from the perspective of various professional groups, with little attention being paid to the service user voice. Studies from the service user perspective undertaken in the past 10 years equate to six qualitative and three quantitative studies, and it appears that poor physical health care remains a problem in the developed world. The quality of this care is compromised by practical problems and interpersonal difficulties between service users and health-care providers and between providers of mental health services and those providing physical health care. This paper presents a review of the nine international studies and discusses the implications for developing policy and practices that could lead to improved physical health-care services for people experiencing SMI.
© 2012 The Authors. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing © 2012 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc.