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Parity of Esteem Header

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.

Following a debate at RCN Congress 2017, the Royal College of Nursing has committed to ensuring people with complex mental health problems receive the same care and achieve the same outcomes as those with physical injuries and illnesses. The RCN aims to be a leader on equity in health and nursing practice – engaging in innovative, new and bold ideas about how its members can deliver effective and holistic services.

Achieving parity of esteem

In spring 2018 we surveyed mental health professionals to establish their views on the current progress in clinical settings of achieving mental health equality. Based on the findings of this report, the RCN has identified three key areas of focus:

  1. Pushing for increased funding into mental health services on par with physical health services.
  2. Improved training – consistency, competency and curriculum support.
  3. Identify areas where access and innovation around physical health has made a difference.
Parity of Esteem Signpost

Parity of esteem - Report of the spring 2018 RCN survey of mental health professionals

We invited nursing staff working in mental health settings to tell us their views on parity of esteem and mental health equality. This report details our findings, which will inform and shape our work over the coming year.

The RCN is also working with Equally Well UK and Citizens UK to explore innovative and practical ways of addressing the current mortality gap.

The RCN is one of the signatories of the Equally Well UK ‘Charter for Equal Health’, a new collaborative backed by over 50 health and care organisations. As part of this the RCN has pledged to improve the physical health of people with mental illness.

To ensure equal care for people with mental health and physical needs, the College is gathering evidence from mental health nurses and nursing staff on how best to achieve this across all health settings and is sharing examples of best practice amongst the nursing community.



Mental health 350x170

Mental Health

All nurses have a responsibility to promote good mental health in order to prevent problems and to support patients who may have a mental illness. 
15-20 The mortality gap in years for people with a serious mental health issue
1 in 4 People will have a mental health issue during their lives

Tom Sandford 145x145

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

Tom Sandford Director, RCN England
news articles 5 news articles
blog posts 5 blog posts
  • 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.

  • Fiona Smith Fiona Smith 8 Sep 2016

    We need more school nurses

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

Page last updated - 27/09/2018