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Mental health statistics for England: prevalence, services and funding

Published Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How common are mental health problems? How long do people wait to access therapy for depression and anxiety? Do mental health services work for everyone? How much is spent on mental health services?

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How common are mental health problems?

2014 Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in England found that 1 in 6 people aged 16+ had experienced symptoms of a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety, in the past week. Women were more likely than men to be experiencing common mental disorders. Prevalence has increased since 1993.

2% of respondents had ever experienced bipolar disorder. 0.7% had experienced psychotic disorder in the past year. 4.4% screened positive for posttraumatic stress disorder.

One in twenty survey respondents reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past year. 

An estimated 1 in 6 people experienced a 'common mental disorder' like depression or anxiety in the past week.

The GP Patient Survey found that prevalence of depression and anxiety was highest in the North of England (including Knowsley, Liverpool, and Halton), and lowest in the South East (including Newbury, Surrey Heath and Wokingham).


Talking therapies for common mental health problems: IAPT

NHS England's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme (IAPT) aims to provide talking therapies for working age people experiencing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It aims to treat 75% of people within 6 weeks of referral, to ensure that half of those finishing treatment recover from their condition, and it aims to reach 15% of people with common mental disorders each year. People can be referred by their GP or they can self-refer.

In 2016/17, 1.4 million people were referred to IAPT. 965,000 entered treatment and 567,000 finished a course of treatment. 64% of those referred were women.

Around 1 million people received psychological therapy for a common mental disorder through the IAPT programme in 2016/17.

Talking therapies are explained in this NHS Choices video

In 2016/17, 87.4% of those finishing a course of treatment waited less than 6 weeks for their first treatment. But waiting times for first treatment varied substantially across England, from 5 days in Stoke-on-Trent to 135 days in Leicester. Many areas had longer waits for second treatment than for first treatment. Waiting times for first and second treatment combined varied from 16 days in Waltham Forest to 167 days in Leicester.

Waiting times for psychological therapy vary from 16 days in Waltham Forest to 167 days in Leicester

Just under half of those finishing a course of IAPT treatment moved to recovery (i.e. they were no longer classed as having a clinical case of a mental health problem). In 2016/17, recovery rates varied from 66% in Rushcliffe to 33% in Leicester. Two-thirds of people showed a reliable improvement after finishing a course of IAPT treatment. Improvement rates varied from 80% in South West Lincolnshire to 46% in Leicester.

Recovery and improvement rates varied between groups, with some minority groups less likely to see positive outcomes:

  • People living in more deprived areas were less likely to experience improvement or recovery after IAPT than those living in less deprived areas
  • People with disabilites were less likely to experience improvement or recovery than those without disabilities
  • People identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual were less likely to experience improvement after IAPT than people identifying as straight
  • People identifying as Asian, Asian British, Black, or Black British were less likely to experience improvement and recovery after IAPT than those identifying as White

Younger people, people living in deprived areas, and people with disabilities are all less likely to recover from their condition after therapy.

 The targets described here don't apply to other kinds of mental health treatment.


Secondary mental health services

Separate data is collected on people who are in contact with NHS mental health and learning disability services. It's estimated that 2.48 million people were in contact with secondary mental health services or learning disability services at some point during 2016/17. These figures do not include people who are only in contact with IAPT services. This includes 2.01 million adults and 464,000 children.

Contact with and access to mental health services varies across the country. In Blackburn with Darwen, 4.4% of the population were in contact with adult mental health services as of December 2017. In Milton Keynes, the figure was 0.1%.

It’s estimated that 45,864 people were detained under the Mental Health Act in 2016/17. The Act gives provision for people with a mental disorder to be ‘sectioned’ – detained in hospital – in order to protect their safety or the safety of other people. The way this data is collected has changed, so data for previous years is not comparable. However, it’s estimated that there was a 2% year-on-year increase in detentions.


Mental health spending

NHS England’s Five Year Forward View Dashboard provides a national and local overview of spending on mental health services.

The total spend on mental health in 2017/18 was planned to be £11.9 billion, compared with £11.6 billion in 2016/17 (a real-terms increase of 0.4%) and £11.0 billion in 2015/16. Over this two-year period, the total real-terms increase is 3.7%.

Total spending on mental health was planned to be £11.9 billion in 2017/18 - up 0.4% in real terms on the previous year.  Eight CCGs were expecting to miss the mental health investment standard for the second year running.

Commissioners are expected to attain the Mental Health Investment Standard, which means that the proportional increase on mental health spending each year should be larger than the proportional increase in overall spending by CCGs. In 2017/18, total CCG spending on mental health was planned to rise from 13.6% of total spending to 13.9%, so the national standard was expected to be met.

32 CCGs – around 15% of the total – did not expect to meet this investment standard in 2017/18. 

Commons Briefing papers SN06988

Author: Carl Baker

Topics: Health services, Mental health

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