A better understanding: psychiatry's social contract

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Mental Health Foundation (London, England)
Mental Health Foundation
Date of publication
1 March 2015
Mental health services
Social welfare
Material type

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This report looks at psychiatry’s “Contract with Society” across the UK. Two key questions are considered: what is the nature of the “contract” between psychiatry and society, and what responsibilities and expectations are there on both sides to enable high quality NHS psychiatric care to be provided across the UK?

Although there are specific facets of psychiatric care that need to be taken into account in considering psychiatry’s “Contract with Society”, the evidence suggests that this “contract” is not fundamentally different to that which exists between other NHS health care providers and society. Accordingly, the role and responsibility of psychiatrists under the “contract” is similar to that of any doctor. The reciprocal responsibilities of the State (and its component parts) apply to all health care under the NHS, not just psychiatry.

The current psychiatrists’ “Contract with Society” is not well understood by stakeholders. The benefits of a greater understanding could include a greater consistency among psychiatrists in adhering to the ‘new professionalism’. It would also help society towards appreciating the personal, social and economic cost of mental ill health, the importance of recovery and the role of appropriate interventions. All of which would help to reduce the stigma of mental ill health

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