Hidden care: Revelations of a case-note audit of physical health care in a community mental health service

Sharon Lawn, Sara Zabeen, Nikki Rowlands, Sharon Picot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    People with severe mental illness (SMI) are widely reported to be at an increased risk of morbidity and premature death due to physical health conditions. Mental health nurses are ideally placed to address physical and mental health comorbidity as part of their day-to-day practice. This study involved an audit of hardcopy and electronic clinical case-notes of a random sample of 100 people with SMI case managed by community mental health service in metropolitan South Australia, to determine how well physical health conditions and risk factors, screening, and follow-up are recorded within their service records. Every contact between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016 was read. One-way ANOVA, Scheffe's test, and Fisher's exact test determined any significant associations across audit variables, which included gender, age, income, living arrangement, diagnosis, lifestyle factors, recording of physical health measures, and carer status. A focus on physical health care was evident from everyday case-note records; however, because this information was ‘buried’ within the plethora of entries and not brought to the fore with other key information about the person's psychiatric needs, it remained difficult to gain a full picture of potential gaps in physical health care for this population. Under-reporting, gaps and inconsistencies in the systematic recording of physical health information for this population are likely to undermine the quality of care they receive from mental health services, the ability of mental health service providers to respond in a timely way to their physical healthcare needs, and their communication with other healthcare providers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1742-1755
    Number of pages14
    JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
    Issue number6
    Early online date2018
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • clinical audit
    • comorbidity
    • monitoring
    • physical health
    • screening


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