Mental health medicines data released by NHS Business Services Authority

NHSBSA’s annual statistical publication ‘Medicines used in Mental Health – England’ has been released today [10/09/2020]. Quarterly Summary Statistics up to June 2020 (covering the COVID-19 lockdown period) have also been released.

Although data has on the number and net ingredient cost of prescription items has been made available before via the English Prescribing Dataset on NHSBSA’s Open Data Portal, this official statistic release now also includes the use of these specific medicines by age and gender breakdown with patient counts at a national level.

Five main groups of medicines* are covered by the publication: Hypnotics and anxiolytics (used to treat insomnia and anxiety); antidepressants; drugs for dementia; drugs used in psychoses and related disorders; and central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The data is based on community prescribing and excludes hospital and prisons usage.

Key findings during 2015/16- 2019/20:

  • The number of prescriptions for medicines used in mental health has increased between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Both the number of prescription items and the number of patients prescribed those items increased. There was increased use of prescription medicines used for:
    • drugs used in psychoses and related disorders
    • antidepressant drugs
    • central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
    • drugs for dementia.
  • There was a reduction in the use of prescription medicines used for hypnotics and anxiolytics over the same period.
  • Four out of the five groups of mental health drugs had a larger number of prescription medicines being prescribed to females than males. The exception to this is CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD, to almost three times as many males as females being prescribed these medications.
  • All five groups of medicines used in mental health were prescribed more often to people living in more deprived areas.
  • For hypnotics and anxiolytics, drugs used in psychoses and related disorders, and antidepressant drugs prescribing was most prevalent in patients aged 40-65. Prescribing for CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD was most prevalent in patients aged 24 and under, and drugs for dementia was most prevalent in patients aged 60 and over.

Key findings April to June 2020:

  • The number of prescriptions for medicines used in mental health has fluctuated since March 2020, following lockdown restrictions being announced by the UK government on 23 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Four of the five drug groups used in these statistics saw a fall in levels of prescribing in Q1 2020/21 compared to the previous quarter. Drugs used in psychoses and related disorders was the only group to see an increase.

These medicines are classified by their main usage. However, they can sometimes be prescribed for other reasons. For example, some antidepressants can be used to treat people suffering from chronic primary pain. We don’t capture this at NHSBSA during processing, and so can’t determine the reason that a prescription was issued. Due to this, these statistics may not give a fully accurate estimation of the population receiving treatment for a specific mental health condition. Drug therapy is just one way that mental health conditions can be treated. These statistics do not tell us how many patients access therapy.

To see the statistical reports in full follow the links below:

Annual: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/statistical-collections/medicines-used-mental-health-england/medicines-used-mental-health-england-201516-201920

Quarterly: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/statistical-collections/medicines-used-mental-health-england/medicines-used-mental-health-england-quarterly-summary-statistics-april-june-2020

This is a new experimental official statistic, the first in a series for England. The NHSBSA is a new producer of official statistics. This marks the second official statistic release from the NHSBSA.  

NHSBSA applies the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics when producing our official statistics. Further information can be found in our compliance statement. The Code of Practice for Statistics sets the standards that producers of official statistics should commit to.

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