bloodtestThe government’s new strategy for tackling avoidable deaths has been welcomed by mental health campaigners.

The Living Well for Longer strategy sets out plans for cutting the number of people who die due to avoidable causes such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory and liver disease. Every year, the deaths of about 103,000 people under the age of 75 could have been avoided either through prevention of illness through public health interventions, earlier diagnosis of their conditions through greater symptom awareness, and by having access to the highest quality treatment and care.

The strategy includes aims to improve the care that people with mental illness receive for their physical health. In particular, it promises greater support for people with mental illness to give up smoking, and new training for health professionals to help them address people’s physical health needs.  

Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, welcomed the strategy, adding that it is a “scandal”  people with conditions such as schizophrenia die up to 20 years younger than average because of preventable physical illnesses. “In fact, last year our Lethal Discrimination report revealed that more than 30,000 people with mental illness die needlessly each year. 

“This has to change – people’s lives depend on it. Our supporters have been calling on the Government to take urgent action, and this new strategy shows that their voices have finally been heard.” 

“We particularly welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure that people with mental illness get support to give up smoking. Over 40% of cigarettes are smoked by people with mental illness, but they receive very little help or encouragement to quit, so these new measures are extremely important. 

“However, this is only the first step in the right direction, and there is still a huge amount of work to be done to make this strategy a reality on the ground. We need the Government and health leaders to explain how they will implement these changes, both nationally and locally. Only then can we reduce the number of people with mental illness who are dying needlessly each year.”