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Social workers flag up gulf between physical and mental health care


Over two-thirds of mental health social workers believe that support for mental health patients is less comprehensive than the treatment on offer for physical health needs, a poll has found.

Despite the government’s commitment to giving parity of esteem between physical and mental health support, 72 per cent of mental health social workers surveyed by The College of Social Work said mental health treatment options were not as comprehensive as those for physical health needs.

The poll of 274 mental health social workers also revealed concerns that there are gaps “across the board” in mental health treatment. Shortfalls in prevention and early intervention work and poor access to accommodation, employment and primary care support were all highlighted.

The survey also revealed that:

• 90 per cent of mental health social workers feel that stigma associated with mental health is damaging the equality of access to support for mental health patients.

• 63 per cent believe health and social care commissioners do not treat equality of access to mental health service as seriously as access to physical health care.

• 58 per cent agree that people experiencing mental health issues feel “excluded and discouraged from seeking help”.

Dr Ruth Allen, chair of The College of Social Work’s mental health faculty, said that the feedback from social workers was “vital” given the profession works holistically to support clients with social, financial and emotional issues as well as clinical needs.

“Parity for mental health, I believe, means equitable investment in mental health, eliminating stigma and social exclusion, and also ensuring people can have their physical, mental health and other wellbeing needs met in a really integrated way,” Allen said.

The findings of the poll will be debated today at an event being hosted by The College at the Liberal Democrats party conference.

Image: Rex features

About Andy McNicoll

Andy is community editor at Community Care, with a focus on reporting on mental health. He has previously worked for titles focusing on the NHS and substance misuse sectors. You can contact him at