A report out today makes recommendations designed to achieve parity in our approaches to both mental and physical health. While the recommendations make sense, the tricky bit is making them a reality.
The report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists called, appropriately, Whole-Person Care: From Rhetoric to Reality, lays out a series of recommendations to ensure that the oft-mentioned aim of service parity between physical and mental health becomes a reality.
None of the recommendations in the report are revelatory, but they are crucial if parity is to be achieved. For instance, that the Government and NHS Commissioning Board should work together to give equivalent levels of access to treatment, is imperative.
The recommendation to give greater emphasis to mental health in the training of healthcare professionals is also vital. Embedding the importance of considering mental health issues at this level will ensure it is a standard part of practice and not an after-thought, as has sometimes been the case, in the past.
Another recommendation puts the onus on political and managerial leadership at all levels to drive this through. Without the commitment of those in power, great recommendations have a habit of foundering.
All the recommendations make sense and are hard to dispute. Also, like the best recommendations, they seem obvious when you read through them and you wonder why they haven’t been acted on before. Long before, in some cases.
The reforms being made to the NHS might not be universally popular – that is a debate for another blog – but they must been be seen as an opportunity to make the necessary changes to ensure that mental health is no longer a secondary consideration to physical health. It is an opportunity that cannot be missed.
In response to the report, Care Services Minister Norman Lamb again reiterated the Government’s goal of achieving parity of approach to physical and mental health, and said he would consider the findings and think through what more the Government can do. We wait with interest to see what the full Government response will be. Hopefully it will be along the lines of accepting and implementing the recommendations as soon as possible.
But it isn’t just up to the Government, all professionals, providers, commissioners and policy-makers need to commit to this. Only then will mental health be seen as an equal to physical health. This objective will take time – years – but putting the mechanisms in place now is essential if it is ever to be achieved.