DanPartonDan Parton considers the potential impact of the Government Mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board:


Ensuring mental health is put on an equal footing with physical health has been something of a mantra for this Government in the past year. But now the time has come for action to overtake rhetoric.

The recently-published Government Mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board, which sets out the ambitions for the health service for the next two years, stated a key objective is to put mental health on a par with physical health and to close the health gap between people with mental health problems and the population as a whole.

So, the Government and the health service now have a target of March 2015 to put in place demonstrable progress towards the aim of tackling this unacceptable disparity.
But, as we all know, much work needs to be done in all aspects of healthcare to ensure this happens.

To take one example, schizophrenia treatment needs to be reformed. The recent report by the Schizophrenia Commission described “shameful” standards of care on some acute mental health wards, which can make patients worse rather than better. 

The commission also found people with schizophrenia are dying 15-20 years earlier than average, mostly due to preventable physical conditions. This is consistent with other severe mental illnesses and is a statistic that stubbornly refuses to change – it has been the case for longer than I have been reporting on mental health.


This demonstrates the need for greater integration of mental and physical healthcare. Mental and physical health problems are often intertwined, yet so often services deal with one or the other but not both. This has to change.

Additionally, people with mental health problems – children and adults – should be offered a greater choice of psychological therapies, carried out by appropriately trained, experienced practitioners. The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies has done some good work in improving this, but it needs to be further built on.

I could go on. Fundamentally, people with mental health problems need to have the same access to treatments as people with physical problems do. If this is achieved – or at least significant progress is made in the next couple of years – then equality will be a whole lot closer.