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.

Based on the Parity of Esteem, the RCN has developed a practice based learning programme which focuses on improving nurses’ awareness and understanding of people’s physical and mental health needs. The programme provides an opportunity to apply learning through the development of a service improvement project in your local area, implementing evidence-based practice to improve standards for the benefit of patients, the public, health care workers and employers. To find out more about the programme please visit: RCN Improving Physical and Mental Health Outcomes.

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

See: Equally Well UK. Looking after your health during COVID-19: A guide for people living with severe mental illness - This resource has been created with input from Tim Coupland’s parity of esteem expert representative  to help people with Severe Mental Illness manage their physical health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

9 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 the learnings from our Parity of Esteem campaign.

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

    Disparity of esteem

    Today, the RCN is launching #MakeParityReality, a campaign that encourages members to put the mental health of patients and colleagues front and centre.

  • 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

    RCN Mental Health Forum member, Ellie Gordon, discusses the small things that nurses can do to help treat mental health equally to physical health.

  • 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?

    What exactly do we mean by parity of esteem?

  • Parity of esteem Tim Coupland Tim Coupland 17 Oct 2018

    We need to talk about parity of esteem

    Tim Coupland urges nurses to build on the success of the recent high-profile mental health events, like World Mental Health Day, to use the next 365 days to focus on mental health equality.

  • 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.

  • Fiona Smith Fiona Smith 8 Sep 2016

    We need more school nurses

    Roles are being cut when they're needed most, writes Fiona Smith.

Tom Sandford 145x145

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

Page last updated - 01/10/2020