Herts councillors told those with serious mental health illness die earlier

“We have got to innovate, we have got to transform, we’ve got to look at the best way of doing things”
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RESIDENTS with a serious mental illness or a learning disability live for around 20 years less than other people, councillors have been told.

The inequality was highlighted by Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Karen Taylor.

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Speaking at a meeting of the council’s health scrutiny committee, she told councillors that most of those early deaths are as a result of their physical health.

Picture for illustrative purposes. Picture: Getty ImagesPicture for illustrative purposes. Picture: Getty Images
Picture for illustrative purposes. Picture: Getty Images

And she said there was a ‘call to arms’ to drive and address that inequality.

Ms Taylor was at the committee to present the Trust’s five year strategy, ‘Great Together’.

And she told councillors: “People with mental health and learning disabilities still die 20 to 25 years younger than the general population.

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“So there is a real call to arms in us continuing to really drive and address that inequality.

“And if you happen to be from a black Asian minority ethnic group and you have a learning disability you can die up to 40 years younger.

“And that is just disgraceful in this day and age in terms of the inequality in outcomes for people.

“The vast majority of those individuals don’t die because of their learning disability or their severe enduring mental illness.

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“They die because of physical health or social implications. And that is something that we have got to work together to address.”

Later in the meeting Prof Asif Zia, the Trust’s executive director for quality and medical leadership, said there were ‘multiple reasons’ for the inequality.

He said smoking was one of the biggest challenges – but also pointed to not going to GP for physical health checks such as high cholesterol or other factors.

Addressing inequality is one of the six key priorities, included in the Trust’s five year strategy, ‘Great Together’ – which was launched in July and outlined to councillors at the meeting, on Wednesday (December 6).

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The strategy reaffirms the Trust’s vision, ‘Delivering Great Care, Achieving Great Outcomes – Together’.

And it catalogues six ambitions that include improving the experience of service users and carers and the provision of quality care, as well as encouraging innovation and collaboration.

They also include the attraction, development and retention of ‘a skilled, compassionate workforce’ and measures to address inequalities.

At the meeting Ms Taylor said they had worked with service users, carers and staff and partners – including HCC – to develop the strategy, which sets out a vision for the next five years.

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She said service users, carers and communities had told the Trust they wanted them to make sure they were placed ‘front and centre’ in their strategy.

She said they had pointed to need for a stronger voice in their own care and in designing services for the future – as well as a focus on their experience and outcomes and on their recovery and their recovery journey.

Ms Taylor also highlighted the need for innovation and the importance of the workforce.

“We know that we work in a very challenging health and social care environment – with more demand, not enough resources all the time to do everything that we want to do,” she said.

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“So we have got to innovate, we have got to transform, we’ve got to look at the best way of doing things.

“So that is absolutely key in our programme of work for the next five years. There is no part of our organisation and our services that aren’t going through some level of change and improvement.”

At the meeting it was also reported to councillors that since the covid pandemic there had been ‘a substantial growth’ in the number of people requiring mental health services.

And this, it was said, had led to increasing numbers of people waiting for support.

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