Charities demand action on talking therapies wait

Mental health charities have urged the government to make all primary care trusts publish waiting times for psychological therapies to tackle waits of up to two years for services.

In a report published today, the We Need to Talk coalition, which campaigns to improve access to talking therapies, said long waits for assessment or treatment caused people’s mental health to deteriorate, often resulting in relationship breakdown and time off sick.

The coalition – the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Rethink, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and YoungMinds – polled 75 mental health service users, seven of whom faced waits of over a year for an assessment, while a similar number faced waits of over a year between assessment and treatment.

The report welcomed the government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, which aims to extend treatment to 900,000 people over the next three years, through funding of £170m a year by 2010-11.

However, it pointed out that only half of primary care trusts would be covered by IAPT by 2010-11, and that waiting times would not fall in other areas unless PCTs were required to publish waiting times annually.

These were despite National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines from 2004 recommending the use of psychological therapies in the NHS to treat depression and anxiety.

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