Parity Of Esteem Between Mental And Physical Health Services Is 'Undermined'

New Survey Finds Only Half Of Mental Health Trusts Received A Real-term Increase


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Lawyers at national law firm Irwin Mitchell say that psychological well-being should be the foundation to our health service amid new survey findings that the parity of esteem between mental and physical health is being undermined.

The NHS providers ‘Funding Mental Health at Local Level: Unpicking the Variation’ report, published in partnership with the Healthcare Financial Management Association, found that the government’s commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health services is being undermined by a failure to ensure funding increases reach the frontline.

Parity of esteem is the principle by which mental health must be given equal priority to physical health. It was enshrined in law by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

NHS Providers and the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) surveyed finance directors in mental health trusts and chief finance officers in clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to understand how the parity of esteem commitment is being implemented locally.

More than half (55%) of England’s mental health trusts responded, along with 10% of CCGs, and found that only half (52%) of providers reported that they had received a real-terms increase in funding of their services in 2015/16.

They also found a limited confidence that funding increases will be delivered this year, with only a quarter (25%) of providers saying they were confident that their commissioners were going to increase the value of their contracts for 2016/17.

And lastly, the study found a lack of alignment between commissioners and providers over what it means to implement parity of esteem, with confusion over what services should be covered, and how much investment should be made.

According to Quality Watch, people with mental ill health use more emergency care, and have over three times more A&E attendances and almost five times more admissions. This led Saffron Cordery, Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Providers, speaking for the Guardian to argue that supporting mental health conditions will therefore maximise the value of the NHS budget.

Ayse Ince, medical negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said:

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“Whilst the public are being advised that more funds are being allocated to mental health services, the stark reality is that those who are in need of the services, and are the most vulnerable in the community are not seeing significant improvements.

“In our experience, we are seeing tragic cases of suicide that could easily have been prevented. Support packages and care in the community that is supposed to be protecting our most vulnerable are stretched. Poorly trained or unqualified individuals are forced to make life-threatening decisions, and aren’t risk assessing the environmental factors as well as the individual appropriately.

“The shortages of beds in our mental health hospitals mean that vital care cannot be offered to those who need review and treatment. Individuals attend A&E when they are experiencing an acute episode of mental ill health, but sadly, we are seeing that they are turned away and struggle by themselves, without the support at home that they need. It is deeply upsetting that some of these patients feel so hopeless that they see no way out, and sometimes turn to suicide.

“There has always been a stigma surrounding mental health, but it is so obvious that good mental health impacts on physical health too, in a positive way. Focussing on psychological well-being surely has to be the foundation of our health service.”
Ayse Ince, Solicitor

We can help you to claim compensation for clinical negligence if a serious injury or fatality has occurred as a result of inadequate supervision and care. See our Mental Health Negligence Claims for more information.