Mental health is a widespread issue affecting both NHS patients and NHS 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 practise 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 is widely acknowledged that COVID-19 took a toll on the population’s mental health.

A study by the Lancet revealed that by April 2020, mental health in the UK had deteriorated in comparison to pre-pandemic trends.


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Key Issue: Perinatal Mental Health

1 in 5 women experience 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 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 per 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 was 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. However, a report from the Nuffield Trust revealed that as of December 2020 the percentage of children and young people requiring urgent treatment receiving that treatment within one week had fallen to 70.5%.

Key Issue: Access to Services

Many patients struggle to get a bed in a mental health hospital that is close to their home. According to NHS figures, in 2016-17 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 would have access to healthcare across England following a rollout of specialist mental health services. This would be the first time that each of the 44 local NHS areas have specialist services.


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Key Issue: NHS Staff and Mental Health

In October 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement announced that a further £15 million would be put towards strengthening mental health services for nurses, therapists, paramedics, pharmacists and support staff. This includes:

  • Creating a national support service for critical care staff who may be most vulnerable to severe trauma.
  • Funding nationwide outreach and assessment services, ensuring that staff receive rapid access to evidence based mental health services.
  • Developing wellbeing and psychological training.

Improving NHS Mental Health Services

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, published in 2016, secured an additional £1 billion in funding for mental health. In 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan made a renewed commitment that mental health services will grow faster than the overall NHS budget, with a ring-fenced investment worth at least £2.3 billion a year for mental health services by 2023/24.

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in 2018 that it would potentially take “a generation” to achieve parity between mental health and physical health services.

Interview Questions About Mental Health

You could be asked directly about mental health during your interview – and even if you aren’t, it’s an important topic that you could bring up in your answers to other interview questions. Example questions could include:

  • Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that it could take “a generation” to achieve parity between mental health and physical health services. Do you agree with this? What could be done to achieve the parity?
  • How do you think Junior Doctors cope with stress in the workplace?

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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