New research has found the average deficit of NHS mental health trusts increased 6.3% over the last two years.

The figure produced by the Independent Mental Health Services Alliance (IMHSA), is one of a number of findings in a new report, Breaking Down Barriers: Improving patient access and outcomes in mental health, that demonstrates the pressure on the mental health system as a whole. This follows findings last week which highlighted the financial constraints on the sector.

IMHSA is calling for NHS England to encourage NHS and independent mental health providers to work together in partnership to offer quicker, more integrated care for patients to address these mounting pressures.

The report also identifies other examples of pressure in the mental health system that need to be addressed:

  • 31 mental health trusts were in deficit in the first quarter of 2015/16.
  • Between 2013/14 and 2014/15, the average number of days of delayed discharge per month for trusts providing mental health services increased by 22.2 per cent.
  • Over a third of trusts are experiencing high occupancy rates.

The report sets out steps the mental health sector can take to address these issues and improve patient outcomes and access to mental healthcare. This includes:

  • Fair funding for mental health services to address historic disinvestment.
  • NHS England to introduce waiting time standards for all mental health inpatient services.
  • NHS England to encourage NHS providers and the independent sector to work together in partnership to offer integrated solutions for patients.
  • Pricing rules set out in the 2016/17 National Tariff guidance to take account of the different cost base for mental healthcare.
  • NHS England to make it a legal requirement that urgent referrals for admission are fully funded, without regard to any centrally imposed moratorium on new beds.

Chair of IMHSA, Joy Chamberlain, said:

“Demand for mental health services is high at a time of funding constraints. This is creating difficulties for patient access to care. However, there is consensus on the need to achieve parity of esteem for mental health and ensure patients get the mental healthcare they need, when they need it.

“This a laudable aim and one that can be achieved if providers, both NHS and independent, work together and in partnership with commissioners to tackle barriers that are restricting patient access to care.

“There are already some great examples of partnership working, as outlined in our report. Partnership working, alongside the other recommendations in IMHSA’s report, will ensure we improve patient outcomes and access to mental healthcare. We hope that NHS England will support providers in this task and drive the improvements that patients need.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. For more information, please contact Rebecca Brake at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 0203 102 3621.
  1. The full report is available on the IMHSA website.
  1. IMHSA is a group of leading independent mental health service providers. IMHSA believes services for people with mental health needs must be high quality, deliver excellent health and care outcomes and enhance the patient experience. We aim to provide improved access and outcomes for people with mental health needs, in a system where they can access quality care and support in a timely manner.
  1. The data used for the research in the report was taken from various sources including the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), Monitor, NHS England and the Department of Health.
  1. In addition, IMHSA also interviewed ten NHS England case managers and a Mental Health Programme of Care Lead to achieve a unique, commissioning focused perspective of mental healthcare.
  1. The data on occupancy rates was sourced from MyNHS in October 2015. This data is updated on a rolling basis but provides a useful snapshot of occupancy rates at any one time. In addition, since IMHSA accessed the data, one trust, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, is no longer listed as a mental health trust. This trust has still been included in our data analysis as a trust listed at the time of accessing the data.
  1. The changing nature of the mental health sector means that some trusts listed in some data sets as providing mental health services in 2014/15 were not primarily mental health trusts and as such are no longer listed in 2015/16. Similarly certain trusts appear to have offered services for only part of 2014/15. Where appropriate we have included these in our analysis as they did have mental health patient contacts during this time.
  1. For the data on block contracts, IMHSA analysed data for the 62 NHS Trusts providing mental health services in 2014/15. Of those, 35 had a contract in place with a block element.