Think-tank the Centre for Mental Health has called for a stronger focus on mental health support to improve people’s physical health, and outlined key actions it wants NHS England and the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to take.

This call came in its latest briefing paper, which examines what the NHS Mandate means for mental health services and the people who use them. The NHS Mandate and its implications for mental health identifies areas for improvements in mental health services and argues that a stronger focus on mental health support can improve people’s physical health.

Key actions for NHS England and CCGs outlined in the briefing paper include:

• Expanding Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services
• Addressing access and waiting times for mental health care
• Commissioning integrated support for people with co-existing physical and mental health conditions.

Tackling health inequalities

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “The NHS mandate sets out in clear terms what is needed from the NHS to deliver improvements in the way we treat long-term conditions and tackle health inequalities. It also sets out clear actions for NHS England and clinical commissioning groups towards the Government’s aim of achieving ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health. 

“Almost one third of people with a long-term physical illness have a co-occurring mental health condition. And people with poor mental health are much more likely to die earlier from serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. By taking mental health seriously across the NHS we can ensure that people get better quicker, live longer and have a good quality of life.

“The NHS Mandate sets out a series of priorities for the commissioning of mental health care. This will enable clinical commissioning groups to focus on closing the gap between mental and physical health at a local level, so that those with a mental health condition have the same entitlement to treatment and choice as someone with a physical illness.”