Research shows ‘postcode lottery’ in UK for psychiatric care

11 Sep 17

There is significant variation in the number of senior psychiatrists working across the country, a professional body has warned.

Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, published today, revealed some stark variations in the number of consultants available in the different regions and nations of the UK.

In North Central and East London, there are approximately 13 consultant psychiatrists available for every 100,000 people. This contrast with the East of England and Yorkshire and Humber where just five per 100,000 are available.

Wales also has comparatively poor access to psychiatrists, with just six available per 100,000, while Scotland is comparatively better served with 10 consultants for the same number of people.

Northern Ireland and England each have eight consultants per 100,000.

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “People with a severe mental illness should expect to see a specialist consultant, just as you would for a severe physical illness.

“The huge variation in consultant psychiatrists across the country means reality is increasingly falling short of our expectations.”

The college highlighted that psychiatrist recruitment had flatlined in recent years.

In England, over the five years since March 2012, the number of psychiatry consultants increased by just 1.7%, compared with a 20.2% increase in NHS consultants working across other medical fields.

The government has pledged to increase the size of the mental health professional workforce and aims to deliver 570 extra consultant psychiatrists a year by 2020-21.

The royal college is using today’s research to kick start a campaign to encourage medical students to opt for psychiatric careers.

Burn said: “No matter where you work in the UK, being a psychiatrist is a privilege… Without psychiatrists to lead specialist mental health teams we cannot deliver the high-quality care that our patients deserve.”

The number of NHS consultant psychiatrists per 100,000 people across England is:

1.         North Central and East London – 13

2.         North West London – 12

3.         South London – 11

4.         North East – 11

5.         North West – 8

6.         West Midlands – 7

7.         East Midlands – 7

8.         Thames Valley – 7

9.         Kent, Surrey and Sussex – 7

10.      Wessex – 6

11.      South West – 6

12.      Yorkshire and Humber – 5

13.      East of England – 5


The number of NHS consultant psychiatrists per 100,000 people across the UK is:

•         England - 8

•         Scotland - 10

•         Wales - 6

•         Northern Ireland – 8

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

Did you enjoy this article?