Cardiovascular risk assessment and management in mental health clients: Perceptions of mental health and general practitioners in New Zealand Academic Article uri icon


  • INTRODUCTION: People with mental illness have higher rates of morbidity and mortality, largely due to increased rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Metabolic syndrome is well recognised but rarely expressed as a need to assess and manage cardiovascular risk factors; furthermore there is confusion about whose role this is. This study explores health practitionersÂ’ knowledge, attitudes, barriers/solutions towards cardiovascular risk assessment and management in mental health patients. METHOD: A survey of mental health practitioners (MHPs n=421) and general practitioners (GPs n=232) was undertaken in a health service in Auckland. RESULTS: Three-quarters of respondents agreed mental illness predisposes to CVD. Fifty-five percent of MH doctors agreed they could effectively assess CVD risk compared to 67% of GPs. Only 21% of MH doctors agreed they could effectively manage CVD risk compared to 57% of GPs. Seventy-nine percent of MHPs believed that assessing CVD risk was a joint responsibility between GP and MHP, compared to 33% of GPs; 62% of GPs believed it was their sole responsibility. Forty-six percent of MHPs believed managing CVD risk was a joint responsibility compared with 29% of GPs; 58% of GPs saw this as their role. Only 13% of MHPs and fewer than 4% of GPs agreed that MH services were effectively assessing and managing CVD risk. MHPs identified lack of knowledge and skills (58%) and poor communication between primary–secondary care (53%) as the main barriers. GPs identified barriers of poor communication (64%) and patient compliance with health care management (71%). The top two solutions proposed by MHPs were provision of GP subsidies (47%) and training (43%). GPs also identified provision of a subsidy (66%) and collaborative management between GPs and MH (44%) as solutions. CONCLUSION: There is widespread recognition of increased risk of CVD in MH patients. MHPs do not believe they have the knowledge and skills to manage this risk. GPs believe this is their responsibility. Both groups recognise communication with, and access to, primary care for MH patients as key barriers. KEYWORDS: Mental health, cardiovascular risk, risk reduction

publication date

  • 2009