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Background: Accredited exercise physiologists (AEPs) are emerging as essential members of allied health in the management of non-communicable chronic diseases. People diagnosed with severe mental illness (SMI) are at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases. Secure extended care units (SECUs) provide treatment, supervision and support for people with SMI whose needs cannot be met adequately in the community. However, the role of AEPs in SECUs has not been described.

Aim: Describe the processes and outcomes of adding an AEP to a new model of care at a SECU.

Methods: An exploratory study with emphasis on qualitative data. Interviews with a purposive sample of SECU staff.

Results: Participants articulated concern about poor physical health of which two themes emerged (1) the development of the AEP role; a calculated gamble and (2) the practical application of the role.

Conclusions: An AEP was identified as the role to best implement the organisations vision to improve physical health of people with SMI. Implementation and practical application of the role relied on an informed calculated gamble. Yet, once embedded in the service, the AEP role was able to capacity build among clinical staff, develop a treatment pathway, and implement consumer specific physical health interventions.

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Journal Article

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