Background: People diagnosed with mental illness have shorter lives and poorer physical health, compared to the general population. These health inequities are usually viewed at an individual and clinical level, yet there is little research on the views of mental health consumers on clinical factors in broader contexts. Objective: To elicit the views of consumers of mental health services regarding their physical health and experiences of accessing physical health-care services. Design: Qualitative exploratory design involving focus groups. Setting and participants: The research was conducted in the Australian Capital Territory. Participants were consumers of mental health services. Main outcome measures: The Commission on Social Determinants of Health Framework was drawn on to lead deductive analysis of focus group interview transcripts. Results: Issues impacting consumers included poverty, the neglect of public services and being treated as second-class citizens because of diagnosis of mental illness and/or experiencing a psychosocial disability. These factors were connected with significant barriers in accessing physical health care, including the quality and relevance of health provider communication, especially when the broader contexts of mental health consumer's lives are not well understood. Discussion and conclusions: These findings suggest the Commission on Social Determinants of Health Framework could be utilized in research and policy, and may provide an effective platform for exploring better health communication with mental health consumers regarding this neglected health inequity.