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How do we get the NHS to place equal value on physical and mental health?

It is a sad fact that a person with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, is more likely to have a physical health problem and is more likely to die of that illness within five years, compared to the general population.

The mental health of people with long-term physical conditions is all to often neglected and physical health problems continue to be under-addressed among people with mental health problems. 

new report from the BMA is calling on the NHS to place equal value on both mental and physical health.

Here are some of the recommendations:

  •  A liaison psychiatry service should be made available in all hospitals. 
  • Mental health trusts should appoint a liaison physician in psychiatric wards to support the physical health needs of hospitalised people with mental health problems and/or intellectual disabilities. 
  • It is strongly recommended that commissioning bodies should ensure that at least one commissioner is a mental health and/or intellectual disability professional. 
  • A National Learning Disability Mortality Review should be established. It implementation would represent an important step towards understanding the issues that directly contribute to premature mortality in this group.
  • Mental health and wellbeing should be integrated into all aspects of commissioners and public health directors work. A mental health dimension, for example, should be incorporated into physical health promotions (eg smoking cessation programmes). 
  • Improved training for doctors and trainees in how to deal appropriately with people with mental illness and intellectual disability and identify both physical and mental illness.    
  • Negative attitudes and discrimination must be tackled across the medical profession and ‘equality of options’ promoted for people with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems by the UK Health Departments.
  • How are you working to achieve parity between physical and mental health outcomes in your practice? Let us know and share your stories with colleagues.

What would you like to see done?

1 reply

  • One simple step would be to provide pro-active mental health support for doctors in training, rather than leaving us to seek help that is patchy and badly organised.  This would not only improve the health of doctors, but help break down the extensive stigma within the profession towards mental health.  Some simple evidence based information from the BMA that counteracts factual inaccuracies in the general press as a press release or letters to the editor would also improve things (e.g. significant biological/genetic component of eating disorders rather than "society" pressures)