Mental health – UK Government assessment
Policy reforms and increased investment in mental health services have improved access to support and treatment. However, this has occurred alongside an increase in demand, meaning that levels of unmet need remain high, particularly for young people. Some groups who share protected characteristics are subject to disproportionate use of compulsory detention and treatment powers.
- The draft Mental Health Bill has many positive aims. Its purpose is to give patients greater choice over their care and treatment, and to improve support for people with acute mental health needs in the criminal justice system. The Bill also aims to reduce the instances of inappropriate detention of people with a learning disability and those with autism. However, concerns have been raised that there is currently insufficient community-based support for this to be achieved.
- The Department of Health and Social Care’s Building Better Support action plan falls short of what is needed to address the inappropriate detention of people with a learning disability and autistic people in mental health hospitals.
- Investment in mental health services and implementation of the Five Year Forward View on Mental Health have led to increased access to mental health services in England. By March 2022, there had been a 14% increase in the number of young people with a diagnosable mental health condition accessing NHS England-funded community services during the previous 12 months. However, this has occurred alongside an increase in demand for services in England: the number of new referrals for NHS mental health services increased by more than 130,000 between May 2017 and May 2022.
- The UK Government has introduced waiting time standards and targets for some mental health services in England. However, many people still face long and inconsistent waits to access services, particularly children and young people.
- Groups including Black women, unemployed people, boys, people with a learning disability, people who are homeless and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are at an increased risk of experiencing poor mental health. People from Black ethnic groups continue to be detained and subject to compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act at disproportionate rates.
- Official survey data shows that the proportion of children aged 5‒16 years in England with a ‘probable mental disorder’ increased from one in nine in 2017 to one in six by 2020. Rates were similar between 2020 and 2021.
- The UK Government’s plan to reduce rates of suicide and self-harm is welcome. Suicide rates have been increasing since 2017. They decreased in 2020, from 11 to 10 per 100,000 people, but rose again in 2021 to 10.7 per 100,000. Around three-quarters of suicides were men, and suicide is the leading cause of death for both men and women aged 20‒34.
- The rate of hospital admissions as a result of self-harm for children and young people in England was 421.9 per 100,000 in 2020/21. In 2011/12, the rate was 347.4 per 100,000. Certain groups – including girls and lesbian, gay or bisexual children – self-harm at higher rates than others.
- There are no official figures for the number of people in prison in England and Wales who have a mental health condition. However, HM Inspectorate of Prisons has reported that 71% of women and 47% of men surveyed by inspectors in prison self-reported having mental health problems. The number of suicides among prisoners is 10 times higher than in the wider population.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on mental health.