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The State of Mental Health: Examining the NHS Mental Health Dashboard

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In January 2019, the Government published their NHS Long Term Plan, pledging to funnel at least £2.3 billion a year to mental health services by 2023–24. However, reports have found depression rates have doubled since the Covid pandemic, and work-related stress has increased by 67% from 2009–10 to 2019–20. So, what is the current state of mental health support in the UK? Specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp investigate.

Local spending on mental health has increased 32% since 2015

The NHS Mental Health Dashboard is described as providing ‘the greatest transparency ever’ in assessing mental health services in the UK. The dashboard includes information about local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs provide most hospital and community NHS services in local areas), as well as a variety of other NHS mental health services such as the NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT). It shows:

  • Local CCG spending on mental health increased 32% from £9.1 billion in 2015 to £12.1 billion in 2021.
  • Total NHS spending on mental health increased 30% from £11 billion in 2015 to £14.3 billion in 2021.
  • Spending for the crisis resolutions home treatment teams has increased 50% from £446.9 million in 2017/18 to £561.1m in 2020/21.
  • Spending for the IAPT has also increased 50%, from £446.9m in 2017/18 to £669.3m in 2020/21.

Mental health support for children and young people (CYP) is improving

The dashboard also provides information about mental health support for children and young people (CYP). Some of the findings from the dashboard are:

  • Between 2016 and 2021, there’s been a 3% increase in the percentage of CYPs with eating disorders seen by a psychiatrist within 1 week for urgent care. That said, there’s been an 8% decrease in those seen within 4 weeks for routine care.
  • Total spend for CYP mental health has increased 38% from £640.5m in 2017 to £880.8m in 2021.
  • Total spend for CYP mental health for eating disorders has increased 23% from £46.7m in 2017 to £57.5m in 2021.
  • The number of children under 18 taken into police custody under section 136 of the Mental Health Act has fallen by 91% from 20 in 2017 to just 3 in 2021.

However, there are worrying findings too. NHS guidelines state that CYPs should only be placed in adult mental health wards in exceptional circumstances, yet there’s been a 98% increase in this happening.

In 2016–17, there were 42 children and young people under 18 in adult in-patient wards. In 2020–21 this rose to 83.

The rates of mental health support for BAME are improving slightly

The NHS Mental Health Dashboard provides specific figures for black, Asian or minority ethnic groups. Figures for the IAPT show that the recovery rate after therapy has increased for this group by 6% since 2016 – from 47% recovered to almost half (49.6%). The proportion of BAME individuals detained under the Mental Health Act has remained the same – at around 30% across 2016-2021.

Where to access mental health support

In order to access the NHS mental health services mentioned above, you may find it easiest to ask your GP for a referral. That said, you can self-refer yourself to the IAPT without going through your GP, although you will still need to be registered with a GP first. Further avenues you could pursue include:

  • For stress at work, you could ask your employer about occupational health services and Employee Assistance Programmes.
  • Urgent NHS mental health helplines provide 24-hour support as well as assessment. Some NHS trusts may provide a Mental Health Single Point of Access phone line too.
  • There are a range of free listening services such as the Samaritans, SANELine, Campaign Against Living Miserably, the Shout Crisis helplines, Mental Health Matters, and Anxiety UK, as well as children and young people’s helplines such as Childline, The Mix, and Nightline.
  • Charities and organisations such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Turning Point all provide resources and access to someone who’ll listen to you without judgement.
  • If you can afford a private therapist, the following organisations could be ones to look into: the Counselling Directory; the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy; the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies; the UK Council for Psychotherapy; the British Psychological Society.
  • Pink Therapy offers therapists with LGBTQ+ experience, while Switchboard offers LGBTQ+ phone operators.

Suzanne Trask, Head of the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp: ‘It is heartening to see the NHS has increased funding on mental health in the last six years. Once someone has reached the point where they need help, that help needs to be made available as soon as practically possible to ensure the best outcome for each patient.

‘The pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s mental health. I know from my clients, who have all suffered brain injuries, and members of brain injury charities with whom we work closely, that this is the case. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety are common.

‘If you are struggling there are a number of resources available to you, including speaking to charities such as the Samaritans.’

The NHS Mental Health Dashboard was used to find the statistics quoted; using data from 2014/15 onwards. The quoted depression rate is from a May 2021 report by the Office of National Statistics, and the quoted stress statistic is from the Health and Safety Executive’s Labour Force Survey.

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