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What can we do

Parity of esteem

Parity of esteem describes the need to value mental health equally to physical health. People with complex mental health needs should have the same access to health care services and support as people with physical health needs.

Evidence shows that people with serious mental health needs die between 15 to 20 years before the rest of the general population. This is also known as the mortality gap.

There are many complex reasons for this, including discrimination and stigma, poor life chances, poor physical health and lifestyle choices, the use of long-term medication and the way the mental health services are structured.


Parity of esteem - what can we do

#MakingParityReality – what can you do?

As well as read our publication there are lots of small, but impactful changes that our members and their colleagues can make in the workplace to help make parity a reality

Over the past year we have been raising awareness of the role that nursing staff have in achieving parity of esteem to improve health outcomes for people with complex mental health needs. The benefits of making parity of esteem a reality for everyone include:

  • Improving the quality of life for people with complex mental health needs
  • Creating health environments to support people with complex mental health needs - to get the best outcome for their physical health
  • Improving someone’s day to day experience when accessing health services
  • Helping people access support within their community e.g. through social prescribing
  • Improving people’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth – valuing someone as a whole person with a wide range of needs.

Whilst our primary focus is on improving physical health, there are also many other challenges for those with serious mental health needs to access the same type of support compared to the wider population. Many who have the most serious mental health needs are more disadvantaged and socially deprived than the wider population in areas such as housing, occupation, social support. See our pledge and who we are working with.

What can you do?

We believe that only collaborative effort across many agencies, particularly working with people who experience serious mental health illness, will help us to deepen our understanding and discover what works best in improving health outcomes. That is why we are working with Equally Well UK. However, there are lots of small, but impactful changes that our members and their colleagues can make in the workplace to help make parity a reality. These include:

  1. Asking all of your patients this week how they are doing both physically and mentally
  2. Setting up a working group of like-minded staff to support wider change in the workplace
  3. Becoming aware of supporting services in your community for referring patients to
  4. Identifying healthy interventions to improve overall health and wellbeing
  5. Identifying the staff member responsible for training and development for colleagues who need further support

Equally Well UK Partner Logo

Tom Sandford 145x145

“I think it’s fantastic that the RCN is addressing the issue of parity of esteem”.

Tom Sandford Former Director, RCN England
news articles 5 news articles
blog posts 11 blog posts
  • Make parity a reality campaign Catherine Gamble Catherine Gamble 11 Oct 2019

    Reflecting on World Mental Health Day

    Catherine Gamble, Professional Lead for Mental Health, reflects on learnings from our parity of esteem campaign. 

  • Make parity a reality campaign Jude Diggins Jude Diggins 8 Oct 2019

    Disparity of esteem

    RCN London Regional Director Jude Diggins writes about the launch of the RCN's #MakeParityReality campaign all about promoting the issue of mental health.

  • Making Parity Reality logo Ellie Gordon Ellie Gordon 7 Oct 2019

    Ask all of your patients this week how they are doing both physically and mentally

    The 15-20 year mortality gap for those with serious mental health needs is shocking and a powerful reminder of the importance of working to place mental and physical health on an equal footing in our health services. We know that to deliver this, nurses need enough resources and time to support both a person’s physical health and mental health as part of their day to day work.

  • Nine images from a PET scan of the brain showing cross-sections through the brain Karenna Davies Karenna Davies 27 Mar 2019

    Why I chose neuroscience

    Mental health nurse Karenna Davies explains how she hopes her masters degree will help her better understand the care and treatments that work for mental health patients.

  • Parliament Catherine Gamble Catherine Gamble 10 Dec 2018

    New Mental Health Bill Announced

    A new Mental Health Bill is taking shape following the publication of an Independent Review.

  • Rosaline Kelly Rosaline Kelly 8 Nov 2018

    What exactly do we mean by parity of esteem?

    Earlier this year, I wrote about poor rates of mental health in Northern Ireland, the impact of transgenerational trauma, the suicide rate, the underfunding of services, lack of access to psychological therapies, and a lack of clarity around expected quality outcomes for users of services.

  • Parity of esteem Tim Coupland Tim Coupland 17 Oct 2018

    We need to talk about parity of esteem

    Tim Coupland urges nursing staff to build on the success of World Mental Health Day by using the next 365 days to deliver mental health equality.

  • Mental health abstract image Michaela Foster Michaela Foster 10 Oct 2017

    Stop the stigma

    On World Mental Health Day, an RCN member explains why depression is both the worst and best thing that has happened to her.

  • Ed Freshwater Ed Freshwater 20 Sep 2017

    Response to ‘The future of the mental health workforce’

    The Centre for Mental Health was commissioned by the NHS Confederation to explore future mental health workforce needs. The RCN Mental Health Forum welcomes the recognition that mental health nurses have important skills and that the profession has experienced significant upheaval in recent years.

  • Member with counsellor Tanja Koch Tanja Koch 27 Mar 2017

    Suicidal thoughts need to be talked about

    Reading about nurses being at higher risk of suicide in a report recently published by the Office for National Statistics made me even more determined to talk about how the RCN can help.

Page last updated - 15/10/2019