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Mental health

Doctors wellbeing, mental health

Across the UK, people of all ages with mental health problems have faced significant challenges in accessing the services they need. Too often, they have received little or no support. This has led to a vast amount of unmet need, substantial levels of preventable morbidity and avoidable deaths.


Key statistics on mental health

  • Mental health problems are the single largest source of burden of disease in the UK, affecting around one in four people.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems experienced in the UK.
  • One in three of the 100,000 people who die prematurely each year in England has a mental health problem.
  • People with a severe and prolonged mental health problem are at risk of dying on average 15 to 20 years earlier than other people.
  • Poor mental health carries an economic and social cost of £105 billion a year in England, £7.2 billion in Wales, £8.6 billion a year in Scotland and £2.8 billion in Northern Ireland.


Doctors have repeatedly raised concern about the state of mental health services and the need to improve the outcomes for their patients suffering with mental health problems. This will require a comprehensive transformation programme, moving to a more proactive and preventative approach to mental health across the NHS.

There has been a welcome focus on improving mental health care in recent years - from the Royal College of Psychiatrists' report on whole-person care, the independent report of the Mental Health Taskforce and the Faculty of Public Health's report Better Mental Health For All, to strategic commitments across the UK such as Wales' together for mental health and Scotland's mental health strategy. However, many challenges remain.


Mental health workforce survey

The mental health workforce is in shortage, and demand for mental health services is increasing at a faster rate than resources. In efforts to resolve this, there has been an increased political focus and a concerted push to address the issue in national policy.

In 2017, Health Education England published a mental health workforce plan to ensure the NHS has the workforce to deliver planned improvements in mental healthcare. But where are we now? Given some of these commitments are due to expire, and additional commitments are in place, we need to take stock of what progress has been made.

To do this, the BMA, in collaboration with the Royal College of Nursing and the Association of Clinical Psychologists, is surveying members working in mental health services.

The survey is designed for doctors, nurses and clinical psychologists who are working in the specialty, so we can get the best possible understanding of workforce pressures and the impact of political commitments upon mental health services.

If you work in England in mental health and want to tell us about your experiences, please fill out our survey – it should take you around 5–10 minutes.

Start the survey

How we’ll handle your information

The survey is open for three weeks and responses are treated confidentially. The data will not be used in any way that allows individuals to be identified. Your response is very important to us, so please answer all applicable questions.


  • Additional briefings

    Perinatal mental health provision

    A BMA briefing on perinatal mental health provision in the UK and what is being done to support improvements to services.  

    Read our briefing


    Tackling the causes: Promoting public mental health and investing in prevention

    Many of the factors that influence people’s mental health lie outside of doctors’ day-to-day clinical influence, and include the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.

    This briefing highlights the importance of comprehensive action on the social determinants of mental health, investigates what is being invested in public mental health across the UK, and makes recommendations for improving public mental health.

    Read our briefing


    Lost in transit? Funding for mental health services in England

    Over recent years, welcome commitments have been made to increase funding for mental health services. There are significant concerns, however, that extra investment is not reaching front line services.

    We have produced a research briefing, which analyses a range of data on recent changes to the funding of mental health services in England, and assesses whether commitments to increased investment are being met.

    Read our briefing


    The challenge of improving mental health outcomes

    There is a range of multi-factorial and complex reasons why the mental health sector is unable to provide the same standard of care as physical health.

    We have produced a briefing that looks at each of these areas in more detail, called Breaking down barriers - the challenge of improving mental health outcomes.

    Read our briefing


    A BMA vision for mental health

    Read our 2014 report on achieving parity of outcomes for those with mental health problems. 

    Our vision is that there is parity of esteem between physical and mental health services; doctors and all health professionals are in the best position possible to take care of people with mental health problems and that people with mental health problems receive optimal care.

    Read our vision for mental health

  • News and features

    Perinatal mental health: 'We must do more'

    Some parts of the UK lack any perinatal mental health beds for women to be cared for with their babies in the same wards. Here's why recent extra funding for perinatal mental health is welcomed, but is ‘not enough’.

    Read the news story


    Separated at birth

    Keith Cooper speaks to a junior doctor who had her newborn baby taken away because of her own mental ill-health and examines the impact of poor access to mental healthcare during pregnancy.

    Read the feature


    Out of area beds hits record levels

    Record number of patients with serious mental health issues are being sent to out-of-area beds despite pledges to end the practice, our analysis of official figures finds.

    Read the news story


    Far from home, far from hope

    A BMA investigation has discovered a rise in the number of adult mental health patients placed in out-of-area beds.

    Keith Cooper examines the impact on patients, their families and the doctors who care for them.

    Read the feature


    Talking therapies - the waiting game

    Many patients wait more than a year for some standard talking therapies, leaving mentally ill people at the mercy of their severe and dangerous conditions.

    We have examined the extent of these waiting times in the NHS and their impact on patients.

    Watch the video


    News coverage and blogs

    Mental health is a well covered topic. Our news coverage and related blogs highlight the issues from a doctors' perspective.

    Read the news stories

    Read the blogs