RECOMMENDATIONS in a report calling for parity between the treatment of physical and mental health could benefit rural patients.
Achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical healthcare has been recognised as an urgent requirement in improving the wellbeing of people living in the UK.
But the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) report suggests patients in need of mental healthcare face poorer access, longer waiting times and limited choice.
The report, Psychological therapies and parity of esteem: from commitment to reality, sets out a series of recommendations to make parity of esteem in the NHS a reality.
BACP president Mike Shooter said the report had drawn on the knowledge of experts and BACP members as well as psychological therapy service users.
Disparity of treatment and services for people seeking psychological therapy compared to people receiving physical health treatment from the NHS must be urgently addressed, said Dr Shooter.
"This pioneering report successfully articulates how parity of esteem can be achieved in relation to psychological therapies across key areas, including choice, waiting times and funding.
"We have made practical recommendations on the commissioning and delivery of psychological therapy services, and we look forward to working to make these solutions a reality."
The report recommends that all people referred to NHS psychological therapy services should begin treatments within 28 days of referral and assessment.
The Health & Social Care Information Centre should publish data on all NHS psychological therapy services' waiting times from referral to assessment and treatment, it says.
Funding should be proportionate to the burden of mental health problems according to locality, says the report.
Lesley Boswell, NHS England national clinical director for remote and rural care and service, said she welcomed the report, which was launched on Wednesday (3 December).
"Its recommendations are highly applicable to the healthcare needs of people living in our remote and rural areas, specifically older people and individuals with long term conditions and co-morbidities."
Ms Boswell called upon NHS clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards to embrace the report's recommendations.
The delivery of psychological therapies should be commissioned in a way that ensured parity of esteem was a reality for people using NHS services in remote and rural communities, she said.
Andy Bell, deputy chief executive at the Centre for Mental Health, said too many people with mental health problems were unable to get access to the support they needed.
"The costs of this disparity are high and the consequences for the people affected can be devastating," said Mr Bell.
"Improving access to psychological therapies for people of all ages across the NHS is a vital step to create a fairer and more efficient health and care system.
"We need to ensure that we have an equal entitlement to timely, high quality evidence-based mental health support as we have to treatments for physical conditions."
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