NHS reveals 480k rise in referrals for secondary mental health services in less than three years

According to the latest NHS statistics, 1.898mn people were in contact with mental health services in January 2024 - of which, 460,208 were children or young people cases.

Related topics:  NHS,  mental health
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
14th March 2024
"With increased awareness of the importance of mental health and the stresses we have experienced during the Pandemic and through the following economic and geopolitical uncertainty, the data may be unsurprising but is still extremely concerning."
- Brett Hill, Head of Health & Protection at Broadstone

Today, the NHS released its latest mental health services statistics for January 2024, reporting the number of referrals for secondary mental health, learning disabilities, and autism services – excluding those who’re solely in contact with talking therapies. As part of this publication, six new metrics have been added – all relating to mean and median length of stay for patients discharged from hospital.

1.89mn people had an open referral to any secondary mental health service compared to 1.41mn in March 2021 – this is a 480k rise in less than three years. Likewise, the number of people either occupying a bed in a mental health hospital or having a bed open for them as part of an ongoing period of leave has increased by 1k since March 2021.

Notably, 22,057 people were subject to the Mental Health Act – including 16,569 people detained in hospital.

In January 2024, 440k people began a new referral (this may include referrals for people already in contact with secondary mental health services or there may be instances where a single person is referred to multiple services and a new referral has been created for each referred service). This is a 40k rise in less than three years.

Meanwhile, 460,208 people were in contact with children and young people’s mental health services, and 259,485 people reached out to the learning disabilities & autism services during this period.

In response to these statistics, Canada Life has released the latest data from myStrength which shows over a third (36%) of users prioritised mindfulness tools above anxiety, depression, and sleep resources. Therefore, Jo Turner, Head of Product & Proposition for Group Protection at Canada Life, has urged employers to play a more proactive role in supporting workplace mental health, “not just when medical intervention is required.”

Brett Hill, Head of Health & Protection at Broadstone, agreed that there’s been a serious uptick in the prevalence of mental health issues since the Pandemic, highlighted by the significant increase in referrals for secondary mental health services.

“The silver lining, if there is one, is the proactive steps we're seeing many employers now take to protect the health & wellbeing of their employees […] this may involve carrying out mental health ‘audits’ to understand the drivers of poor mental health, sourcing and promoting digital mental health solutions or investing in onsite mental health services to support employees who’ve returned to the office,” he continued.

Brett believes mental health training for line managers and leaders could also play a vital role in creating a positive and supportive workplace culture whilst helping to detect and treat mental health concerns at an earlier stage. This will speed up recovery, minimise the cost of absenteeism, and mitigate the risk of potentially costly claims on employee health insurance benefit programmes.

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