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Almost 2.9 million people in contact with secondary care mental health services in 2019/20


By Awil Mohamoud
28 January 2021

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Almost 2.9 million people were in contact with secondary care mental health services in England in 2019-20, according to the latest NHS Digital figures.

The annual Mental Health Bulletin showed that the number of patients in contact with secondary mental health, learning disabilities and autism services increased from 2.7 million in 2018-19 to 2.9 million in 2019-20.

This means that roughly 5% of people in England were known to be in contact with these services during this year, NHS Digital said.

However, the total number of providers submitting data has increased from 2018-19 to 2019-20, making it difficult to draw any comparisons, the body said. It added that the figures feature the ‘initial impact’ of Covid-19, but that the true extent will be more evident in the 2020-21 publication.

The 2019-20 figures may include referrals which did not result in an attendance with a service or treatment being received, NHS Digital said, but do not include those being treated in primary care or referred under the Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

Over a quarter (26.5%) of patients known to be in contact with secondary mental health were aged under 18 in 2019-20, according to the data.

Nearly 4% (105,000) spent time in hospital as part of being in contact with these services during 2019-20, it showed, while 12,000 people were subject to at least one restrictive intervention.

The report also showed that 70.5 black or black British people per 100,000 of the population were in a mental health setting and underwent at least one restrictive intervention in 2019-20, compared to 18.7 white people per 100,000.

The total number of white people who were subject to restrictive intervention stood at 8,400 compared to 1,300 black or black British people, it found.  

The report also revealed that children from the most deprived areas (73,500) were more than twice as likely to be in contact with mental health secondary care support than those from the least deprived areas (34,200).

This comes after the Government set out a package of measures for reforming the Mental Health Act earlier this month, which included plans to restrict the use of detentions and tackle racial inequalities in mental health services.

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