New BMA report highlights ‘broken’ mental health system

by BMA media team

Media release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 20 February 2024

A new BMA report, “It’s broken” Doctors’ experiences on the frontline of a failing mental healthcare system", based on first-hand accounts of doctors working across the NHS, reveals a ‘broken’ system of mental health services in England. The current economic cost of mental ill health has been estimated to be over £100 billion in England alone*, but this report demonstrates that across the NHS, doctors are in an ongoing struggle to give patients the care they need because the funding is just not enough, there are not enough staff, and the infrastructure and systems are not fit for purpose.

The report makes plain that without a concerted effort from central government to resource mental healthcare based on demand (which continues to grow beyond what the NHS can respond to) as well as changes in society to promote good mental health, the future looks bleak.

​The BMA carried out in-depth interviews with doctors across the mental health system, including those working in psychiatry, general practice, emergency medicine, and public health.

Doctors in the report say:

​“Mental healthcare in this country is dysfunctional. It's broken.” - GP, Nottingham

​“[Support for people with mental health conditions] is shocking. We would not accept this in any other area of medicine.” - Psychiatrist, Greater Manchester

​“…patients always know that they can come into the emergency department…between spring this year and spring 2022 there was a doubling of Mental Health Act assessments in the emergency department. Which I think is fairly indicative of more systemic issues and obviously it impacts on our workload.” - Consultant psychiatrist working in A&E, Oxford

​“Everybody wants to do the right thing. Everybody's trying really hard, but we're just not putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to saying we need to invest in prevention and early intervention.” - Public health consultant, West Yorkshire

Dr Andrew Molodynski, a consultant psychiatrist in Oxfordshire and the mental health lead at the British Medical Association, said:

​“As doctors struggling to provide mental health care, we know only too well that the system has crumbled. Some of our patients wait as long as four years for treatment, meaning too many people - including children - continue to fall through the gaps, and all the while funding remains insufficient. We’re having to make hard prioritisation choices that leave many patients without care and support that they urgently need.​

​"The demand for mental health services has changed dramatically, but funding has not kept pace. Mental healthcare funding must be based on what people need today, instead of being based on what we spent yesterday, which was inadequate even then.

​"We need these changes to the system to be able provide good quality care and tackle the huge cost of mental health to people’s lives, the NHS, and the economy.”

​The report finds that although in recent years the Government has placed some focus on mental healthcare, sadly there has been no overall improvement in services. It also finds that services are facing ever increasing demands and doctors are becoming increasingly distressed and frustrated as they are less and less able to provide the best care for their patients.

​The report concludes that mental healthcare has not been provided with the funding or staff necessary to achieve the level of improvement needed for patients and the doctors who work within it. It also makes plain that trying to pinpoint just how much extra funding and staff are required is difficult due to a lack of consistent data on the prevalence of mental illness in England.

Notes to editors

Full report here:

​The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

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