Physical Health Assessment

Warning

The Foundation Programme Curriculum explicitly emphasises the need for physical and mental health to be considered in tandem.

A physical health assessment is an essential part of a full mental health assessment. This generally includes:

  • A systems review in the history
  • Physical examination
  • Bloods (the tests you need to request may vary between health boards)
  • An ECG

You should check your health board's policy to find out the details of what is expected in your local area. 

Reasons for doing a physical health assessment on a patient presenting with apparent mental illness: 

  • Physical examination is an essential part of the process of formulating a differential diagnosis for psychiatric presentations and ruling out organic causes (e.g. endocrine, infectious or neurological conditions) 
  • Psychotropic medications can have significant physical effects, including metabolic syndrome, hyponatremia and extra-pyramidal side effects
  • Regular physical health monitoring is an essential part of treatment
  • Patients with mental illness may be at risk of neglecting their physical health, or of being less able to communicate their concerns about their physical health
  • Patients with mental illness are also at increased risk of being stigmatised and having difficulty accessing services.

Adapted from the 'Physical Health in Psychiatry' article in the MyPsych Student Toolkit. 

Last reviewed: 21/02/2024

Next review date: 21/08/2024

Author(s): Medical Education Fellow, NHS Lothian.

Author email(s): mypsych@ggc.scot.nhs.uk.

Reviewer name(s): Medical Education Fellow, NHS Lothian.