Governments fail on parity of esteem, congress hears

UK governments have failed to ensure mental and physical health have parity of esteem, RCN congress concluded.

UK governments have failed to ensure mental and physical health have parity of esteem, RCN congress concluded

tim coupland
Governments are still failing to address the needs of those with complex mental illness,
Tim Coupland told congress. Picture: John Houlihan

Parity of esteem was enshrined in law by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, with a pledge to achieve it by 2020.

But delegates at RCN congress overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning UK governments for failing to deliver on the issue, and called on RCN council to insist the issue is urgently addressed.

Mental health nurse and RCN Dorset branch member Tim Coupland, who introduced the motion, spoke of people with mental health problems having to wait many hours for a bed and being moved across the country.

'This would not happen for physical health problems,' he said.

He said UK governments' current track record of delivery on parity of esteem was  'shambolic, disorganised, inconsistent, and fundamentally still failing to address the broad needs of those with complex mental illness'.

Least visible, least vocal

Seconder Becky Hoskins said: 'The least visible and least vocal in our society, who have illnesses you can't typically see, are still subjected to exclusion.'

She said those with serious mental illness could expect to die 20 years earlier than the general population.

One first-year mental health nursing student said: 'Society has moved on, people's attitudes have moved on, social stigma is reducing and the approaches in mental health nursing are rapidly firing forward.

'The services that I work with and alongside now as both a student and a health support worker are not in the same condition as they were when I recovered from a serious mental illness, some years ago. 

'I wouldn't have been here without their help. And looking at the services now, I'm not sure I would have made it, because we are being forced to deliver them by an uncaring and cruel government agenda of failing to deliver parity of esteem.'

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