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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Parity of Esteem

The report, Whole-Person Care: From Rhetoric to Reality, highlights the significant inequalities that exist between physical and mental health care, including preventable premature deaths, lower treatment rates for mental health conditions and an underfunding of mental healthcare relative to the scale and impact of mental health problems.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 secured explicit recognition of the Secretary of State for Health’s duty towards both physical and mental health. In conjunction with a clear legislative requirement to reduce inequalities in benefits from the health service, these place an obligation on the Secretary of State to address the current disparity between physical and mental health. However, the concept of ‘parity of esteem’, a principle which underpins all six objectives of the English Mental Health Strategy, No Health without Mental Health, is not well understood. The Department of Health therefore asked the RCPsych to establish an expert working group to consider the issues in detail, to develop a definition and vision for ‘parity of esteem’ and to produce recommendations for how to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health in practice.


The report makes key recommendations for how parity for mental health might be achieved in practice and includes a set of commitments to actions they will be taking to help achieve parity of esteem.


Defining Parity of Esteem


In essence, ‘parity of esteem’ is best described as: ‘Valuing mental health equally with

physical health’.


More fully, parity of esteem means that, when compared with physical healthcare, mental healthcare is characterised by:

…. equal access to the most effective and safest care and treatment

…. equal efforts to improve the quality of care

…. the allocation of time, effort and resources on a basis commensurate with need

…. equal status within healthcare education and practice

…. equally high aspirations for service users; and

…. equal status in the measurement of health outcomes.


  Link to full report                                                           Link to summary


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