HEALTH chiefs in Worcestershire have welcomed plans to make the mental health of patients as important as their physical health.

Leaders at the Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, which runs mental health services, have welcomed a national drive to attach more importance to mental health.

One of the key objectives of the Government’s ‘commissioning mandate’, issued in November, is to place mental health services on “an equal footing with physical health”, which means people getting “timely access to the best available treatments”.

The mandate sets out a series of ambitions and priorities for the National Health Service between April this year and March 2015 by which the Government will hold the NHS Commissioning Board to account.

Sarah Dugan, chief executive of the health and care trust which runs Newtown Hospital in Worcester, welcomed the increased emphasis on mental health care.

She said: “The general principle of placing mental health services on the same footing is really, really welcome.”

Other priorities include:

Preventing people dying prematurely

Enhancing the quality of life for people who have long-term conditions

Helping people to recover from episodes of ill health following injury

Ensuring that people have a positive experience of care

Treating and caring for people in a safe environment

Protecting people from avoidable harm.

Another change in national policy which will affect the trust locally is the document Compassion in Practice which sets out the importance of the six Cs – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

In a document published in November the ombudsman stressed the importance of ‘communication and embedding good complaint handling’ in the NHS.

Chris Burdon, chairman of the Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, said the documents published recently showed that “for once everyone seems to be talking the same language and addressing the same issues”.