Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has urged NHS commissioners to “step up to the plate” on helping the government achieve parity of esteem for mental health.

In a speech today Mr Clegg launched a new national mental health action plan setting out key aims the government wants to see mental health prioritised to the same extent as physical health.

He said variability in standards of mental healthcare across the country were worse than the “well documented variability in physical health”.

“Some people with mental health problems are still being treated in ways that are frankly unacceptable,” he said, citing long waits for treatment, patients being transported hundreds of miles for a bed as well as the continued use of face down restraint.

His plan reiterates targets set out in the mandate to NHS England and the government’s mental health strategy. Mr Clegg described it as “a call to action to everyone across the NHS, mental health sector and wider society”.

But his comments came as the mental health sector faces 20 per cent higher cuts to tariff prices set by NHS England and Monitor for 2014-15.

Mr Clegg said the government was taking a “more bold and focused approach to mental health” but accepted these “worthwhile first steps” had not “made enough of a difference for enough people”.

He told a specially organised conference on mental health today: “We recognise we have a mountain to climb. This is a very direct challenge from me as deputy prime minister to commissioners to see what we are saying and to act accordingly.

“Until commissioners recognise what we have said…the promise is not going to be delivered into action,” he said.

“Commissioners have got to step up to the plate.”