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How mental health loses out in the NHS

Posted on 19/06/2012

A report published today reveals the scandal of insufficient mental health treatment provision in Britain – and how little the NHS does about it. Mental illness is now nearly a half of all ill health suffered by people under 65 – and it is more disabling than most chronic physical disease. Yet only a quarter of those involved are receiving any form of treatment. 

Academics from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry are part of the Mental Health Policy Group, a team of distinguished economists, psychologists, doctors and NHS managers who wrote the report. 

Mental illness accounts for 23% of the total burden of disease. Yet, despite the existence of cost-effective treatments, it receives only 13% of NHS health expenditure. The authors write: 'The under-treatment of people with crippling mental illnesses is the most glaring case of health inequality in our country.'

The authors argue that we need to rethink cuts to mental health care, and should be expanding care instead. They explain: 'This is a matter of fairness, to remedy a gross inequality, and it is a matter of simple economics – the net cost to the NHS would be very small. When everyone praises early intervention, it is particularly shocking that the sharpest cuts today are those affecting children.' 

Evidence has shown that the cost of psychological therapy is low and recovery rates are high – success rates for mental health interventions, are much higher than with very many physical illnesses.  Expenditure on psychological therapies for the most common mental health problems is cost effective. For example, when people with physical symptoms receive psychological therapies, the average improvement in physical symptoms is so great that the resulting savings on NHS physical care would outweigh the cost of psychological therapy.  

There are currently 6,000,000 people with depression or crippling anxiety conditions, and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression, and most receive no treatment. The authors argue this is because NHS commissioners have failed to commission properly the mental health services that NICE recommend. 

The Mental Health Policy Group is part of the London School of Economics (LSE) and is chaired by Professor Lord Richard Layard, Director, Well-Being Programme, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE. 

Experts from King’s include: 

  • Professor Sube Banerjee, Professor of Mental Health and Ageing, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London Head of the King’s Centre for Innovation and Evaluation in Mental Health; 
  • Professor Martin Knapp, Professor of Health Economics and Director of the Centre for the Economics of Mental Health at Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London and Professor of Social Policy, Director of the Personal Social Services Research Unit and Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research, LSE; 
  • Professor Stephen Scott, Professor of Child Health and Behaviour, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London; Director, National Academy for Parenting Research; 
  • Professor John Strang, Head of Addictions Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London; 
  • Professor Graham Thornicroft, Professor of Community Psychiatry; Head of Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London; 
  • Professor Simon Wessely, Head, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London;

A full copy of the report How Mental Health loses out in the NHS by the Centre for Economic Performance’s Mental Health Policy Group at LSE, can be accessed here

For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, tel: 0207 848 5377 or email:

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