‘Parity of Esteem’ is a phrase I heard on the radio today. It refers to making sure mental health gets treated the same way physical health does.
One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue over their lifetime. 3 in 4 people diagnosed with mental health problems are likely to receive little or no treatment for their condition. Even for psychotic disorders, around one third of people are untreated.
Treatment rates for most physical long-term conditions are much higher, in some cases over 90 percent. People diagnosed with a severe mental illness are nearly 4 times more likely to die from serious conditions such as heart disease or cancer related illnesses.
Mandate to NHS England makes it clear that:
- mental health is just as important as physical health
- there is a health gap between people with mental health problems and the population as a whole which should be closed
- everyone who needs it should have timely access to the best available mental health treatment
NHS England is focussing its efforts and resources on improving clinical services and health outcomes by addressing five major areas as per a publication by Martin McShane from March 2014:
- Improving Information – so we know where we need to improve care.
- Improving crisis care – so that people with acute mental health problems get the sort of care people with physical health problems take for granted.
- Improving physical health care– to tackle the risk of premature death which people with mental illness face.
- Improving the way we plan and invest in mental health– so that commissioners give it the right attention and investment.
- Improving services– establishing networks across the country with leaders who are passionate about improving care.
Given the cuts in government funding in the present economic climate, all this sounds like a pipe dream. In fact staff shortages put so much pressure on the staff currently working that they are starting to get demoralised and absenteeism is on the rise.
Moreover these changes require a cultural shift which takes a very long time. From my personal experience I can say that none of the 5 focus points mentioned above have been implemented as yet and it will be interesting to see how and when things change as proposed.