Access to physical health care for people with serious mental illness: A nursing perspective and a human rights perspective-common ground

Janette Nankivell, Chris Platania-Phung, Brenda Happell, David Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Relative to the general population, people with serious mental illness (SMI) experience elevated risks of physical disease and illness and live shorter lives. A human rights perspective argues that people with serious mental illness have a right to equal access to physical health care. Nurses in mental health services can contribute to improving the availability and accessibility of physical health care. This study, involving focus group interviews with nurses in a large regional and rural mental health care district of Queensland, Australia, revealed significant problems in access to physical health care for service users. The current article reports on our exploratory analysis of nurses' views and perceptions to identify (1) orientation of nurses to human rights, and (2) access of consumers with SMI to general practitioner services. It was rare for nurses to raise the topic of human rights, and when raised, it was not as a strategy for improving access to physical health care services that they felt consumers with SMI greatly needed. Two main themes were identified as causes of poor access: clinical barriers to physical care and attitudinal barriers to physical care. In light of these results, the authors explore a human rights perspective on access and how this provides an inclusive lobbying umbrella under which nurses and other groups can pursue access to physical health services that are adequate, accessible, and non-discriminatory. The article then discusses the implications for these findings for the value of human rights as a perspective and means of increasing physical health of people with SMI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-450
Number of pages9
JournalIssues in Mental Health Nursing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

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