NHS releases mental health medicines statistics for 2020-21 in England

NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has released annual statistics as well as the latest quarterly summary statistics, covering January - March 2022.

Five groups of drugs are analysed in the report including antidepressants; hypnotics and anxiolytics; antipsychotics; central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and ADHD drugs; and drugs for dementia.

  • an estimated 83.4 million antidepressant drug items were prescribed in 2021/22. A 5.07% increase from 2020/21.
  • an estimated 8.32 million identified patients received an antidepressant drug item in 2021/22. A 5.72% increase from 2020/21. Both the number of items issued and number of patients receiving antidepressants increased for the sixth consecutive year.
  • an estimated 4.07 million drugs for dementia items were prescribed in 2021/22. A 0.46% increase from 2020/21.
  • an estimated 277,000 identified patients received a drugs for dementia item in 2021/22. A 0.52% increase from 2020/21, indicating a return to trend after a decrease from 2019/20, which followed four consecutive years of increases in both the estimated number of items prescribed and estimated number of identified patients.
  • of the five drug groups analysed in this publication, four had a larger proportion of identified patients that were female. The exception to this is CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD, which had just over twice as many males receiving prescribing than females.
  • all five groups of drugs were prescribed more often to patients living in more deprived areas of England. The largest disparity was for drugs used in psychoses and related disorders, which saw almost three times as many patients receiving prescriptions from practices in the most deprived areas of the country compared to the least deprived.
  • in 2021/22, the most common group to receive prescriptions for antidepressants, antipsychotics, and hypnotics and anxiolytics was female patients aged between 50 to 59. The most common group for CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD was male patients aged 10 to 14, while the most common group for drugs for dementia was female patients 85 to 89.

To see the annual statistical report in full go to:

For all ‘Medicines Used in Mental Health’ reports visit:

Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen


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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