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The health system in Coventry and Warwickshire won the ‘Performance Recovery Award’ in the 2023 Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards for their work to improve the life expectancy of people with Severe Mental Illness (SMI). 

Coventry and Warwickshire Integrated Care System (ICS) received the award in recognition of their efforts to reduce the difference in life expectancy for people with SMI compared to the rest of the population, also known as the mortality gap, which currently stands at 15-20 years.

The ICS has introduced an approach that aims to help prevent people with SMI dying earlier than they should due to preventable and treatable physical health conditions.

This involves offering personalised support to individuals with SMI, including making them aware they are eligible for a free annual physical health check. There have also been two new services developed, a ‘virtual hub’ and a mobile unit, to make vital information and support as accessible as possible. 

Dr Angela Brady, Chief Medical Officer of Coventry and Warwickshire ICB, said: 

“A massive congratulations to everyone involved in delivering the approach to annual physical health checks for people with Severe Mental Illness for winning the ‘Performance Recovery Award’ at the 2023 HSJ Awards.

“The team have rightly been recognised for their fantastic work that has seen a significant increase in the amount of people living with severe mental illness who are accessing vital annual health checks. These checks enable health issues to be identified early and treatment started sooner - which ultimately leads to better health outcomes.

“This award is testament to the hard work and dedication that has gone into making the approach a success. It has not always been easy, but the commitment of everyone involved in making a positive impact on the lives of those with SMI has made the improvements we’ve seen possible.

By sticking to the clear messages from our population involved in the design, staff in our different organisations have been able to come together and deliver in the most accessible and meaningful way. 

“Thank you to everyone who has been involved throughout the implementation of this approach. It is an excellent example of the difference we can make when health and care organisations work together to improve the health and wellbeing of our local population.”

The work undertaken by the ICS saw an increase in the percentage of people on the SMI register receiving physical health checks increase from 10.4% in June 2021 to 67.8% in March 2023 – above the national target of 66% set out in the NHS Long-Term Plan.

Excellent partnership working across the health and care system in Coventry and Warwickshire was vital to make this change, with primary and secondary care, mental health teams at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, VCSE organisations, the Integrated Care Board, GP Alliance, local authorities and NHSE all being involved in the delivery of the project.

Key to the success of this work has been engagement with individuals with SMI and their families. Rather than focusing on numbers or targets, the team focus on ensuring that the individuals who access services are seen as people with real lives and real experiences, which allows them to understand their needs and adjust the services accordingly. There has also been significant input to the approach from clinicians and staff who deliver the service, meaning that everyone involved has had the opportunity to shape what it looks like.

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