Community mental health survey 2021

Page last updated: 12 May 2022

This survey looks at the experiences of people who use community mental health services.

People were eligible to take part in the survey if they had at least one contact with services between September and November 2020, with another contact either before, during or after this period. In addition, some questions ask participants to reflect on their care over the last 12 months. Therefore, results of this survey reflect experiences of care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

What we found

This report shows that people are consistently reporting poor experiences of NHS community mental health services, with few positive results. Many people reported that their mental health had deteriorated as a result of changes made to their care and treatment due to the pandemic.

In some areas of care, such as accessing care, communication, support and wellbeing, results have been declining for a number of years. Findings show that, across many areas of care, experience of using mental health services is at its lowest point throughout the eight-year period 2014 to 2021.

Our analysis found people who received telephone-based care reported worse than average experiences in four key themes: overall experience, access, communication, and respect and dignity.

Positive results

Organising care

  • Of those who have been told who is in charge of organising their care, 96% said that they knew how to contact this person.
  • A further 90% said the person organised their care quite well or very well.


  • We have found statistically significant improvement since 2019 in the percentage of people who have had the possible side effects and purpose of their medicines discussed with them.

Key areas for improvement

Accessing care

  • Two in five people (42%) thought the waiting time for their NHS talking therapies was too long.
  • Only 41% of people have ‘definitely’ seen services enough for their needs.
  • Almost 1 in 5 (17%) reported care and services were not available when they needed them in the last 12 months.
  • Two in five people (44%) were not given enough time discuss their needs.

Crisis care

  • Over a quarter of people (26%) would not know who to contact out of office hours in the NHS if they had a crisis.
  • Almost a quarter (23%) of people did not get the help they needed or could not contact crisis care services.


  • Only half (52%) of people were involved as much as they wanted to be in planning their care.
  • Only 41% of people said they ‘definitely’ agreed what care they would receive with someone from NHS community mental health services.
  • Only half of people (50%) were involved as much as they wanted to be in deciding which therapies to use.

How experience varies for different groups of people

Consistent with past years, analysis has found disparities in the experiences of people with different mental health diagnoses. Respondents with non-psychotic disorders, especially those with more challenging and severe disorders, reported worse than average experiences for multiple areas of care. These included: overall experience, access, care during COVID-19, communication and involvement.

In stark contrast, people with psychotic disorders, particularly those with low symptoms or those presenting with a first episode of psychosis, reported better than average experiences for most themes. These included: overall experience, access to crisis care, care during COVID-19, and communication.

Analysis also found differences in the experiences of people using different methods to access care. People accessing telephone-based care tended to report worse than average experiences, while those receiving care using video-conferencing methods reported better than average care usually. Poorer experiences also tended to be reported by the 18-35 age group and those with long term health conditions. People aged 66-80 reported better than average experiences for most themes as did those who had been in contact with NHS mental health services for shorter periods of time.

Results for NHS trusts

Each trust has been provided with a benchmark report, which provides: detail of the survey methodology, headline results, the trust score for each evaluative question, banding for how a trust score compares with all other trusts.

View these 'Community Mental Health Survey 2021' benchmark reports on the NHS Surveys website.


Community Mental Health Survey 2021: Statistical release

Community Mental Health Survey 2021: Trust outliers

Open data

Community Mental Health Survey 2021: National tables

Community Mental Health Survey 2021: Benchmark data

Supporting information

Community Mental Health Survey 2021: Quality and methodology report

Community Mental Health Survey 2021: Technical document

Community Mental Health Survey 2021: Pre-release access list

How will results be used?

We will use the results from the survey in the regulation, monitoring and inspection of NHS trusts. Survey data will be used to help us assess how trusts are performing. Survey data will also form a key source of evidence to support the judgements and inspection ratings published for trusts.

Other organisations

NHS trusts

Trusts and commissioners are expected to take action to improve services based on the results.

NHS England and NHS Improvement; and the Department for Health and Social Care

Information collected nationally in a consistent way is essential to support public and Parliamentary accountability. The results are used by NHS England and NHS Improvement; and the Department of Health and Social Care for performance assessment, improvement and regulatory purposes.