Physical health issues was a major topic when we joined with the College at their annual conference in Christchurch during October. Supporting the theme of “Recover, rebuild, regenerate” the College devoted an entire afternoon to this stream, chaired by Associate Professor David Menkes. Cardio-metabolic screening and monitoring were top of mind for the large audiences at the eight sessions within the stream. Jo van Leeuwen from the Equally Well backbone team attended and gave an update about the work of the collaborative.

Physical health issues was a major topic when we joined with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) at their annual conference in Christchurch during October. Supporting the theme of “Recover, rebuild, regenerate” the College devoted an entire afternoon to this stream, chaired by Associate Professor David Menkes. Cardio-metabolic screening and monitoring were top of mind for the large audiences at the eight sessions within the stream. Jo van Leeuwen from the Equally Well backbone team attended and gave an update about the work of the collaborative.

The afternoon concluded with a robust panel discussion joined by Dr Ruth Cunningham from the University of Otago, Wellington, Professor Malcolm Hopwood, President of the RANZCP and Professor David Castle from the University of Melbourne.

Psychiatric Registrar Dr Lisi Petaia spoke about the special work happening in Counties Manukau’s Community Intensive Care team, where they audited the treatment of metabolic issues in patients in the team. Speaking from the conference, Jo had this to say about Lisi’s presentation, “sadly, and not unexpectedly, the results of their audit weren’t good. However this has ignited the fire in Lisi and her team to get on and initiate treatment, using the opportunity to teach people and their whānau about physical health and also to develop treatment pathways with primary care. I thought Lisi was a huge inspiration to her colleagues.”  

Lynley Byrne from Compass Health PHO in Wellington and Ellen Fisher from Tairawhiti DHB, also presented on their respective Equally Well initiatives. Lynley asked the question “Are we checking?” in her presentation. Readers may recall earlier in 2016 that Lynley and Compass Health piloted a programme to provide a free GP visit (from their Long Term Conditions funding) for everyone who was enrolled with their PHO and prescribed an antipsychotic or mood stabiliser. The purpose of this funded visit was to provide people access to a physical health screen and to respond to any needs arising from that. What followed was a self-audit by the GP practices and reporting on the findings. Since the funding was quickly used up, Lynley explained the next steps for 2017, including initiating a different model for sustainability and scaling up the pilot to capture Community Mental Health Teams, providing the same service to that group. Definitely a space to watch! 

Ellen updated us on her DHB’s funding initiative to provide eight free GP visits per year to those people accessing treatment from Tairawhiti’s Adult Community Mental Health Services. Through their evaluation they found the uptake was less than expected so they are using this information to analyse and shape the way forward for the initiative. 

Jo also attended the session on Trainee Welfare and Education. Jo reports, “I was interested in how the values and attitudes of medical students choosing psychiatry are influenced, as we know this has a huge impact on the drivers which contribute to physical health inequities. By the end of this session I learned that significant changes are occurring in the approach to the teaching and learning of med students, with Dr Sarah Gordon speaking about the evidence for this. I think the College’s support for the new approach says much about their commitment and contribution to changing values and attitudes to people who access mental health services.”