Mental Health Statistics in England

Attitudes towards mental health have changed in recent years. Mental health, which was often stigmatised and not discussed openly, is receiving increasing public, media and government attention as an important public health issue. There is a greater awareness that mental health is something we all have and, just like physical health, it can sometimes be good and sometimes be poor.

Our review of mental health statistics in England, carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic, explores why good statistics in this area are important, but is not intended to provide specific guidance on statistics directly related to the effects of the pandemic. We hope however, that sharing our findings on the strengths and weaknesses of mental health statistics, along with highlighting specific recommendations for improvements, will help inform decisions in the statistical sector both in the immediate term and going forward.

Our research for this review focused on answering the following two questions:

  • is the mental health statistical system publishing the information required to provide individuals, service providers and policy makers with a comprehensive picture on mental health?
  • do the existing statistics help answer the key questions about mental health in society today?

We spoke to a wide range of statistics users across different areas of society. They told us of their need for high quality statistics which are able to answer a broad range of questions. Users told us that the existing statistics did not paint a full enough picture of individuals and their conditions, and that producers should be taking greater steps to maximise the insight from existing statistics. In some areas they wanted to know more than the current statistics were able to tell them.

We heard that there is a need for improved quality across the datasets underlying many mental health statistics. Users told us that mental health statistics should be more accessible, both in terms of finding relevant publications and in relation to producers making publications easy to read and explaining clearly the limitations of the statistics. In addition to this, they spoke of their frustrations that some surveys were not carried out as often as they would like, as well as challenges around obtaining data for secondary analysis purposes.

Our research identified that, although the existing mental health statistics go some way to meeting user’s needs, there is much more that can be done.

Our recommendations:

  1. Statistics producers and organisations should exploit the value of the statistics through better data, greater analysis and linking data.
  2. We want to see continued activity to improve the quality of underlying statistics datasets, as well as clear communication with users about quality issues.
  3. We want to see clearer leadership and greater collaboration across producers of mental health statistics.
  4. Access to NHS Digital data needs to improve.

We understand that addressing these issues may not currently be a priority for statistics producers due to the COVID-19 situation, however we expect statistics producers to work collaboratively towards delivering these recommendations when they are able to do so.

Exploring the public value of statistics about post-16 education and skills – UK report

We have been looking in detail at the value of the current data and statistics on post-16 education and skills. As an independent UK wide regulator, we are in a unique position to take a broader look at issues of importance to society and to make the case for improved statistics, across organisational and Government boundaries. 

This report, our second report in this topic area, explores the public value of post-16 education and skills statistics across the UK with a focus on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and updates on changes since the publication of our first, England only, report in 2019. 

Four key sectors comprise the majority of the post 16 education and skills statistics in the UK: workforce skills, universities and higher education, colleges and further education and apprenticeships, and each are covered in detail in our report. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the statistics that inform these sectors have been extensively researched at a UK wide level.  

Exploring the statistical landscape in this multi sector, multi country way has allowed us, to not only to identify the current challenges, information gaps and improvements to statistics in each sector, but to also highlight areas of good practice and shared learning opportunities. We have looked in detail as to how the current statistics are meeting the needs of users, focusing on the public value that the statistics give. In doing this we have been also been able to explore in detail how accessible the current statistics are and whether theare helping to inform a bigger, sector wide, picture. 

Post-16 education and skills affect the lives of millions of individuals in the UK. Good quality and accessible statistics are important to support the fair, efficient and effective provision of education and training. Alongside this report we will continue to engage with statistics producers to make the case for improved data and statistics in these sectors 

The state of the UK’s statistical system

This review sets out our view on the current state of government statistics. At their best, statistics and data produced by government are insightful, coherent, and timely. They are of high policy-relevance and public interest. There are good examples of statistics that effectively support decision-making in many areas of everyday life: this has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we’re seeing the kind of statistical system that we’ve always wanted to encourage – responsive, agile and focusing on users. However, the statistical system does not consistently perform at this level across all its work.

In this report we address eight key areas where improvements could be made across the system.

  1. Statistical leadership
  2. Voluntary Application of the Code, beyond official statistics
  3. Quality assurance of administrative data
  4. Communicating uncertainty
  5. Adopting new tools, methods and data sources
  6. Telling fuller stories with data
  7. Providing authoritative insight
  8. User engagement

In each area, we highlight examples of statistical producers doing things well. These examples illustrate the good work already happening which others can learn from and build on. We have organised our reflections under the three headings of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value, the three essential pillars that provide the framework for the Code of Practice for Statistics.

User engagement in the Defra Group

Why we did this review

Understanding how statistics are used and what users and other stakeholders need is critical to ensuring that statistics remain relevant and provide insight. To achieve this, statistics producers must engage with users.

To explore this aspect of statistics production, we carried out a review of user engagement in the Defra Group. By the Defra group we mean the Core Department and Executive Agencies, Forestry Commission and those Defra Arm’s Length bodies that are designated as producers of official statistics: Environment Agency, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Marine Management Organisation and Natural England.

This is our first departmental review of user engagement and the Defra Group made an ideal candidate for such a review. It has a large and broad portfolio of official statistics and National Statistics, with a varied public profile, public interest and impact and is therefore likely to require different approaches to engaging with users.

We focused our review on a set of 10 National Statistics and official statistics which reflect the diversity of the Defra Group statistics portfolio (see report Annex B). They cover a range of topics, users and uses, and represent the Defra core department as well as Arm’s Length Bodies.

What we hope to achieve

Through this review we aim to develop a better understanding of the range of approaches to user engagement currently adopted within the Defra Group, and to identify the key features of effective and impactful user engagement. We hope this will support the Defra Group in enhancing its user engagement and provide broader learning for other statistics producers.

Related links:

Correspondence: Ed Humpherson to Ken Roy: User engagement in the Defra Group

Blog: What we have learned from the Defra Group about user engagement

Strengthening the quality of HMRC’s official statistics

Introduction to the review

In September 2019, HMRC invited the Office for Statistics Regulation to carry out a review of the principles and processes underpinning the quality of HMRC’s official statistics. This review was proactively initiated after HMRC identified a significant error in published Corporation Tax receipt statistics, which affected the period from April 2011 to July 2019.

Aim and scope of the review

The aim of our review was to provide an independent assessment of the approach that HMRC takes to manage quality and risk in the production of its official statistics and to identify potential improvements. We appreciate that producers of statistics will never eliminate errors entirely: the recommendations we present in this report focus on improvements that HMRC should make to help minimise the risk of issues with its statistics in the future.

Related links:

Ed Humpherson to Ruth Stanier: Strengthening the quality of HMRC’s official statistics

Ed Humpherson to Jim Harra: Strengthening the quality of HMRC’s official statistics

Ed Humpherson to Sean Whellams: Review of HMRC statistical quality management

Jim Harra to Ed Humpherson

Ruth Stanier to Ed Humpherson 

Adult Social Care Statistics: Summary Report for Great Britain

Following the publication of our reports on adult Social Care statistics for England, Scotland and Wales, the Office for Statistics Regulation has published a summary report for Great Britain.

This report draws together the main findings from each of the three countries. We closed the project strand for Northern Ireland, following the publication of a letter in March 2019.

We spoke to a range of users of these statistics, as well as reviewing existing outputs. Given the devolved nature of adult social care, we looked at statistical issues in each of the four countries separately.

Today’s report highlights common challenges and frustrations, as well as good practice relating to adult social care. It concludes with our priorities for action that each of the three countries should take to improve adult social care data and statistics.

Related Links:

Report on Adult Social Care statistics in England (January 2020)

Adult Social Care Statistics in Scotland (February 2020)

Adult Social Care Statistics in Wales (June 2019)

Two-year update: Public Value of Statistics on Housing and Planning in the UK

Our systemic review of The Public Value of Statistics on Housing and Planning in the UK was published in November 2017. This comprehensive review looked across a wide range of the statistics within our Housing, Planning and Local Services regulatory area.

This two-year update report shares the progress made since the review, highlights the challenges that remain and outlines our proposed work plan approach for this regulatory area.


Related Links

Public value of Statistics on Housing and Planning in the UK (November 2017)

Report on Adult Social Care statistics in England

Today, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has published its findings from an in-depth review of Adult Social Care statistics in England.

The need for good data to support delivery of adult social care should not be underestimated. While there is rightly a focus on delivery, a scarcity of funding has led to under investment in data and analysis, making it harder for individuals and organisations to make informed decisions.

This needs to be addressed. The need for information is increasing as society evolves and the demands on social care services over coming years look set to increase. Improved data matters in solving problems, supporting efficiency and maximising outcomes. It is also important to inform decisions made by individuals about the care they receive or provide for themselves and their families.

Our review highlighted three main areas for attention:

  • Better leadership and collaboration across the many different organisations involved in the process of publishing official statistics on social care, that enables working across boundaries to join-up government departments, local authorities and between public and private sector providers;
  • Gaps in available data as most information available comes from local authorities with responsibilities for adult social services and does not cover private household expenditure, privately funded care or the value of unpaid care causing limited knowledge of individuals care journeys and outcomes; and
  • Improving existing official statistics through accessibility, coherence, quality, timeliness and granularity of the data to provide insight and allow existing data to better meet user needs.


Related Links

Mary to Sandra Tudor, MHCLG (January 2020)

Mary Gregory to Chris Roebuck, NHS Digital (January 2020)

Mary Gregory to Mark Svenson, NHS England (January 2020)

Mary Gregory to Iain Bell, ONS (January 2020)

Systemic Review Outline: Adult Social Care

Response from NHS Digital on Adult Social Care in England (February 2020)


Systemic Review Outline: approaches to user engagement in the Defra Group

Users of Defra Group statistics, please help us by completing our short survey. It takes approximately 5 minutes to complete and closes on 21st February. We really appreciate your feedback.


To ensure that statistics are valuable and provide insights, statistics producers must understand how the statistics are used and what questions they need to answer. This can be achieved by communicating and engaging with users.

What we are doing and why

We are exploring approaches to user engagement by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its Arm’s Length Bodies – collectively called the Defra Group.

The review has two main objectives:

  • To understand and document the range of approaches to user engagement currently adopted across the Defra Group statistics portfolio.
  • To identify key features of effective and impactful user engagement for the different types of audience (current and potential).

The Defra Group has a broad and diverse portfolio of official statistics and National Statistics, covering the environment, food and farming, fishing and rural communities. The public profile, public interest and impact of these statistics is varied, and therefore is likely to require different approaches to engaging with users. For this reason, the Defra Group is an ideal candidate for the review, which may provide broader learning about user engagement for the statistical community.

To make the scope of the project manageable, we are focusing on a small subset of 10 outputs which reflects the diversity of the portfolio and which covers the core Defra Department and the Arm’s Length Bodies.

How we are doing it

The review uses three sources of evidence.

Source 1: workshop with Defra Group statistics teams

We will discuss users and uses, approaches to user engagement, challenges to user engagement and support and training for user engagement.

Source 2: user survey

The survey will gather views from users of Defra Group statistics on how the Defra Group communicates and engages with them.

Source 3: measures of web use

Web analytics data provided by the Defra Group will tell us about public interest in the statistics.


For more information about the project, or to share feedback, please contact Job de Roij.