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Whole-person care: from rhetoric to reality. Achieving parity between mental and physical health.


Sue Bailey, Lucy Thorpe, Greg Smith

Subject Keywords: Mental illness
Set: Mental Health
Catalogue: Research and Evaluation
Type: Article
Region: United Kingdom

The report presents evidence on a range of factors affecting disparity between mental and physical health, and includes case studies and examples of good practice to illustrate some of the key issues and solutions. It should be seen as the first stage of an on-going process over the next 5"10 years that will deliver parity for mental health and make whole-person care a reality. It builds on the Implementation Framework for the Mental Health Strategy in providing further analysis of why parity does not currently exist, and the actions required to bring it about. A parity approach should enable NHS and local authority health and social care services to provide a holistic, whole person response to each individual, whatever their needs, and should ensure that all publicly funded services, including those provided by private organisations, give people's mental health equal status to their physical health needs. Central to this approach is the fact that there is a strong relationship between mental health and physical health, and that this influence works in both directions. Poor mental health is associated with a greater risk of physical health problems, and poor physical health is associated with a greater risk of mental health problems. Mental health affects physical health and vice versa. The report makes a series of key recommendations for the UK government, policy-makers and health professionals. Recommendations include: The government and the NHS Commissioning Board should work together to give people equivalent levels of access to treatment for mental health problems as for physical health problems, agreed standards for waiting times, and agreed standards for emergency/crisis mental healthcare. Action to promote good mental health and to address mental health problems needs to start at the earliest stage of a person's life and continue throughout the life course. Preventing premature mortality " there must be a major focus on improving the physical health of people with mental health problems. Public health programmes must include a focus on the mental health dimension of issues commonly considered as physical health concerns, such as smoking, obesity and substance misuse. Commissioners need to regard liaison doctors (who work across physical and mental healthcare) as an absolute necessity rather than an optional luxury. NHS and social care commissioners should commission liaison psychiatry and liaison physician services to drive a whole-person, integrated approach to healthcare in acute, secure, primary care and community settings, for all ages. Mental health services and mental health research must receive funding that reflects the prevalence of mental health problems and their cost to society. Mental illness is responsible for the largest proportion of the disease burden in the UK (22.8%), larger than that of cardiovascular disease (16.2%) or cancer (15.9%). However, only 11% of the NHS budget was spent on NHS services to treat mental health problems for all ages during 2010/11. Culture, attitudes and stigma " zero-tolerance policies in relation to discriminatory attitudes or behaviours should be introduced in all health settings to help combat the stigma that is still attached to mental illness within medicine. Political and managerial leadership is required at all levels. There should be a mechanism at national level for driving a parity approach to relevant policy areas across government; all local councils should have a lead councillor for mental health; all providers of specialist mental health services should have a board-level lead for physical health and all providers of physical healthcare services should have a board-level lead for mental health. The General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) should consider how medical and nursing study and training could give greater emphasis to mental health. Mental and physical health should be integrated within undergraduate medical education.



Rights: © Public
Suggested citation:

Sue Bailey, Lucy Thorpe, Greg Smith. (2013) Whole-person care: from rhetoric to reality. Achieving parity between mental and physical health. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 23rd March 2018].


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