• assessment;
  • care management;
  • physical health;
  • practice role development;
  • skills enhancement

Accessible summary

  • • 
    Individuals with serious mental illness experience poorer physical health in comparison to the general population.
  • • 
    Mental health nurses (MHNs) working in acute care settings appear to be in an ideal position to assess patient's physical health needs and promote healthy living activities yet this aspect of care delivery has generally been ignored or neglected.
  • • 
    Using a self-report questionnaire and audit of case notes this study sought to identify what MHNs perceived their role to be in regards to physical health and how confident they were in reviewing patient's needs.
  • • 
    All of the respondents felt that addressing the physical health needs of their patients was important. However, findings suggest a difference between the perceived role and MHNs’ practice in undertaking physical health promotion which highlights the need for role clarification and further skills training.


There is overwhelming evidence that the physical health needs of those with serious mental illness have been neglected by health service professionals. Mental health nurses (MHNs) could play a key role in meeting these needs particularly during hospital admissions, yet they are uncertain about their role, have variable levels of confidence and lack appropriate skills and training. This study investigated MHNs' views and practices of physical health management for adults receiving acute inpatient treatment and found a difference between MHNs' perceived responsibility and their practice, which highlighted a need for role clarification and further skills training.