Mental Health

SEPTEMBER 20, 2021

Statistics from Mind charity show that in England ‘1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year’ and ‘1 in 6 people report experiencing a common health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week’. Statistics from the Samaritans also show that ‘deaths by suicide rose by 10.9% in the UK in 2018’ and as of 2019 the suicide rate in England and Wales was ‘11 deaths per 100,000 people’ and in Scotland ‘16.6 deaths per 100,000’. 

Understandably, there has been a focus on mental health and the need for more support for individuals experiencing mental health problems by charities and campaign groups, like Mind and the Samaritans, and by the media. Therefore, it’s important that you’re aware of how government policies and the NHS are addressing this problem, to support you to be able to discuss this topic, should it be a focus in your medical school interview.  

The following is key information on mental health across the devolved nations:


‘Since 2013, NHS England has been working to improve the outcomes and experiences of people of all ages with mental health problems, to ensure that mental health is treated on par with physical health’.

Key documentation:

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health

The NHS Long Term Plan

Published in January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan outlines the following key aims for mental health services in England:

  • ‘expanding support for perinatal mental health conditions’
  • ‘increasing funding for children and young people’s mental health’
  • ‘spending at least £2.3bn more a year on mental health care’
  • ‘delivering community-based physical and mental care for 370,000 people with severe mental illness a year by 2023/24’

The NHS Mental Health Dashboard provides information on performance in relation to the NHS Long Term Plan and ‘how mental health services are funded and delivered’.


According to NHS Wales ‘a quarter of us will experience mental health problems or illness at some point, having an enormous effect on those around us’; their website provides information on services and support for tackling mental health problems in Wales.

Key documentation:

Together for Mental Health: delivery plan for 2019 to 2022

  • The revised version of the Together for Mental Health policy provides details on how the ‘10 year plan to improve mental health and well-being’ will be delivered and actions to respond to the ‘impact that COVID-19 has had on the mental health and wellbeing of people in Wales’. 

The Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010


The Scottish Government states that ‘mental illness is one of the major public health challenges in Scotland’ and ‘improving mental health is a priority’; you can find more information about the actions they are taking to improve mental health here

You can also find more information about mental health and wellbeing in Scotland on the Public Health Scotland website

Key documentation:

The Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027

  • This ten year vision aims to improve the following:
    • ‘Prevention and early intervention’
    • ‘Access to treatment, and joined up accessible services’
    • ‘The physical wellbeing of people with mental health problems’
    • ‘Rights, information use, and planning’
  • Delivery is assured through the Mental Health Delivery Board
  • The first progress report was produced in 2018
  • Published in October 2016, this is a ten year plan to transform health and social care. Sets out plans such as:
    • ‘More funding for mental health interventions in primary care’
    • ‘Further support for perinatal mental health and inpatient services for mothers’
    • ‘Mental Health Hubs’

Mental Health Action Plan

  • Published in May 2020, it includes actions in relation to mental health in Northern Ireland, including the impact of COVID-19.

Ethical considerations & wider issues

‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’; this definition of health from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of mental wellbeing to ensure good health. Furthermore, NHS England claims that ‘improved mental health and wellbeing is associated with a range of better outcomes’ for individuals, including ‘improved physical health and life expectancy [and] reduced risk of mental health problems and suicide’. Combined with the fact that ‘mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, contributing up to 22.8% of the total burden’, it’s clear why there is interest in providing services and support to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those who need it. 

It is the aim of the NHS to promote health and wellbeing, which includes mental health. In addition to this, the ethical standards set by the General Medical Council (GMC) outlines a doctor’s duty to ‘make sure all patients receive good care and treatment that will support them to live as well as possible, whatever their illness or disability’.

Further research

Ensure that you research and understand the scale of mental health illnesses in the UK and how the government and the NHS are addressing these; the information provided above should be a good starting point for exploring these. 

You may also find it useful and/or interesting to research some of the following areas further, to allow you to develop your discussion around mental health:

  • The cost of mental health – this can include the cost for individuals, the NHS and the wider economy; you can find this information in government reports.
  • How many people access Mental Health services – the NHS Confederation provides statistics in relation to this for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • The effect of COVID-19 – unsurprisingly, there have been concerns about how the pandemic has affected people’s mental health. Given the relevance of this now, as the pandemic is ongoing, and in the future, as this is something that the government and NHS could potentially need to respond to, this may be an interesting area to draw upon if you are asked to discuss mental health during your interview. You may want to start with the following:
  • NHS England case studies – these examine ‘how mental health care across the NHS is changing and developing to better meet people’s needs’. This provides examples of how the NHS is providing mental health services and the impact of these. As there’s examples from different locations and trusts across England, you could research what is offered in your local area or the area of your chosen medical school.
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