Model of a brain - Photo by robina weermeijer on unsplash

NHS releases latest mental health medicines statistics

NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has released its latest data, ‘Medicines Used in Mental Health’, covering October to December 2021.

In this period 21.2 million antidepressant drugs were prescribed, a 1.88% increase from 20.8 million items in the previous quarter(three months), and a 3.48% increase from 20.5 million items compared with the same quarter (October-December) in 2020/21.

Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have shown an increase of 7.75%, with 548,000 items in this quarter compared to 509,000 items in the previous quarter. This is also a 12.6% increase on 487,000 items from the same quarter in 2020/21.

In the 22-month period since lockdown measures were implemented during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (between March 2020 and December 2021) there were 1.71 million more antidepressant prescription items issued than expected based on historical trends.

However, this was not a statistically significant increase for the period. 'Statistically significant' means that something could have just happened randomly, but it is unlikely. Instead, it is much more likely that there is a cause.

As well as this there were 753,000 fewer drugs for dementia prescription items issued than expected based on historical trends. This was a statistically significant decrease for the period.

The report covers five main groups of medicines: 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 hospitals and prisons.

To see the full statistical reports follow the links below:

Latest release - Quarterly (October-December 2021): 

Annual publication:

For dates of upcoming statistical publication releases, including the annual Prescriptions Cost Analysis, visit:

Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen

Senior Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority

Notes to editors

Please note:

  • Prescription ‘items’ refer to individual drugs or inhalers etc on a prescription form, however a ‘prescription’ can include multiple medicines on it.
  • These statistics are based on the financial year and not on the calendar year as some other sources of data may be.
  • 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 completely 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 other forms of treatment, such as psychological therapy.
  • Statistical significance refers to when a result from data generated by testing or experimentation is not likely to occur randomly or by chance but is instead likely to be attributable to a specific cause.
  • Quarterly  - occurring once every quarter of a year.

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