Choosing mental health services

Page last updated: 6 May 2022

One in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem in any given year, and accessing mental health services can be stressful and cause additional worry. If you or a loved one need to use mental health services, you'll want to make sure they offer safe, compassionate and high-quality care.

If you are concerned about your mental health, you should first visit your GP

Your GP will assess you and offer appropriate advice or treatment. They can refer you to a psychological treatment service or a specialist mental health service for further advice or treatment.

If you don't want to go to your GP

Mental health services are free on the NHS but you will usually need a GP referral. If you don't want to go to your GP you may also have the option of self-referral. This means you can go directly to a professional therapist.

The NHS website has a searchable directory of services to help you find a service near you.

Comparing services

If you are referred to a specialist mental health service, you can ask which other providers offer the same service in your local area and make a choice.

Read our inspection reports

To help you make a choice, you can check our inspection reports. You can look for our reports on your local services by using the search box here.

When we inspect services, we ask these five key questions:
  • Is this service safe?
  • Is this service effective?
  • Is this service caring?
  • Is this service responsive to people's needs?
  • Is this service well-led?

We rate services on a four-point scale: outstanding, good, requires improvement, inadequate.

Give us feedback on your care

We use information from the public and hold listening events across the country where you can talk to inspectors about your experience of services.

If you do have any concerns or worries about the care you receive, tell the service and also tell us – the information you give us will help us to monitor services and plan our inspections.

You can give feedback on care using our website, by calling 03000 616161 or by emailing

We also monitor use of the Mental Health Act

As well as inspecting and rating services, we also check that patients' basic human rights are maintained while they are being cared for or treated under the Mental Health Act.

We visit patients who have been detained and those under community treatment orders and we also appoint Second Opinion Appointed Doctors (SOADs) who check whether the medication that patients receive is correct.

Find out more about the Mental Health Act.