Mental health is a widespread issue that heavily impacts both NHS patients and staff, which means it is a potential hot topic that could come up in your Medical School interview. Find out how COVID-19 has impacted mental health, learn about other key mental health issues, see how the NHS is improving its mental health services – and practice some related interview questions.

Why Is Mental Health Important?

Studies show that almost one in three people experience mental health issues at some stage in their life. In 2017 alone, 1.4 million people were referred to NHS mental health therapy services.

Key Issue: COVID-19 Impact

It has been acknowledged that COVID-19 has taken a toll on the population’s mental health, and is becoming an increasing global concern. A study by the Lancet revealed that by April 2020, mental health in the UK deteriorated in comparison to pre-COVID-19 trends. Any policies that emphasise the needs of women, young people and those with young children are likely to play an important role in this time.


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Key issue: Perinatal Mental Health

1 in 5 women experiences perinatal mental health problems – most commonly depression and anxiety. In February 2018, NHS England pledged an extra £23 million to improve perinatal mental health services. This funding is part of a wider programme that hopes to provide access to an additional 30,000 women receiving specialist mental health care by 2021.

As a result of additional funding, assessment and care for perinatal women with complex and severe mental health issues are carried about by a specialist community of Doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists

Key Issue: Mental Health And Eating Disorders

It’s estimated that an extra £30 million goes into funding eating disorder services a year.

In February 2019, NHS England announced that patients with diabulimia, in which patients with diabetes restrict their insulin intake to lose weight, will have access to therapy for social media and body image. This was part of a pilot scheme, fitting in with the NHS Long Term Plan to change mental health treatment with a focus on children and young people.

Claire Murdoch (National Director for Mental Health) claimed that NHS England is on track to achieve their goal of treating 95% of all children and young people diagnosed with an eating disorder within one week for urgent cases and four weeks for routine cases by 2020/21.

Key Issue: Access to Services

Many patients can’t get a bed in a mental health hospital that is close to their homes. According to NHS figures, almost 6,000 mental health patients were sent out of their local area to receive care – a rise of 40% in two years.

In March 2019 it was announced that the NHS would test a pilot scheme for patients in A&E presenting with mental health issues in order to ensure access to quick care.

In April 2019, NHS England reported that new and expectant mothers now have access to healthcare across England following a rollout of specialist mental health services. This is the first time there are specialist services in each of the 44 local NHS areas.

Key issue: NHS Staff and Mental Health

NHS England and NHS Improvement will invest a further £15million towards efforts to strengthen mental health services for nurses, therapists, paramedics, pharmacists and support staff. Support will include:

  • Local mental health specialists will be available to assess and treat those who are referred by colleagues or refer themselves.
  • For more severe cases, a specialist centre of excellence will be able to assist NHS staff with the tools needed to cope with stress and anxiety caused due to work and family life pressures.

Improving NHS Mental Health Services

NHS England aims to develop and implement a new national plan, which the government has pledged £1.25billion towards in 2015. It includes:

Interview Questions About Mental Health

While you may not be asked questioned directly related to mental health and the impact on NHS patients and staff, it is a topic you can bring up when asked other interview questions, such as these:

  • How do you think Junior Doctors cope with stress in the workplace?
  • What are the potential long-term non-medical consequences of lockdown?

Have a go at some ethics and empathy questions and see whether there are any questions you can apply this topic to.


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