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Br J Psychiatry. 2019 Aug 8:1-7. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2019.185. [Epub ahead of print]

Estimating local need for mental healthcare to inform fair resource allocation in the NHS in England: cross-sectional analysis of national administrative data linked at person level.

Author information

Research Fellow, Health Organisation,Policy and Economics,University of Manchester,UK.
Senior Analytical Lead, Analysis and Insight for Finance,NHS England,UK.
Lead Analysis (forecasting), Analytical Insight Resource Unit,NHS England,UK.
Senior Manager, Operations & Information Directorate,NHS England,UK.
Senior Analytical Manager, Analysis and Insight for Finance,NHS England,UK.
Analysis and Insight for Finance,NHS England,UK.
Analyst, Analysis and Insight for Finance,NHS England,UK.
Professor of Health Economics, Health Organisation,Policy and Economics,University of Manchester,UK; andProfessorial Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute for Applied Economic and Social Research,University of Melbourne,Australia.
Head of Analysis and Insight for Finance,NHS England,UK.



Equitable access to mental healthcare is a priority for many countries. The National Health Service in England uses a weighted capitation formula to ensure that the geographical distribution of resources reflects need.AimsTo produce a revised formula for estimating local need for secondary mental health, learning disability (intellectual disability) and psychological therapies services for adults in England.


We used demographic records for 43 751 535 adults registered with a primary care practitioner in England linked with service use, ethnicity, physical health diagnoses and type of household, from multiple data-sets. Using linear regression, we estimated the individual cost of care in 2015 as a function of individual- and area-level need and supply variables in 2013 and 2014. We sterilised the effects of the supply variables to obtain individual-need estimates. We aggregated these by general practitioner practice, age and gender to derive weights for the national capitation formula.


Higher costs were associated with: being 30-50 years old, compared with 20-24; being Irish, Black African, Black Caribbean or of mixed ethnicity, compared with White British; having been admitted for specific physical health conditions, including drug poisoning; living alone, in a care home or in a communal environment; and living in areas with a higher percentage of out-of-work benefit recipients and higher prevalence of severe mental illness. Longer distance from a provider was associated with lower cost.


The resulting needs weights were higher in more deprived areas and informed the distribution of some 12% (£9 bn in 2019/20) of the health budget allocated to local organisations for 2019/20 to 2023/24.Declaration of interestNone.


Mental health; cost; need; weighted capitation


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