Poor access takes shine off talking therapy recovery rates

NHS talking therapy services are achieving high rates of recovery for mental health service users but access to treatment remains too low, sector leaders say. Their warning follows the first assessment of the flagship Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

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NHS talking therapy services are achieving high rates of recovery for mental health service users but access to treatment remains too low, sector leaders say. Their warning follows the first assessment of the flagship Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

Two in five people with depression or an anxiety disorder who complete NHS psychological therapy recover from their condition.

But recovery rates varied from 7% to 63% between PCT areas, according to today’s report from the NHS Information Centre, which covers April-June 2011.

During the reporting quarter, 210,540 people were referred for psychological therapies and 123,975 entered treatment, representing 2% of people in England with depression or an anxiety disorder. Access rates varied from 0.2% to 5% between PCT areas.

This showed there was a “long way to go” in terms of widening access, said Mental Health Foundation chief executive Dr Andrew McCulloch.

He welcomed the 42% recovery rate as a “huge achievement” but suggested that the low recovery rates in some areas may reflect a lack of qualified staff.

“We also know that it is still more difficult for older people and people from minority ethnic communities to access psychological therapies,” he said.

“Mental health services staff needs to have an understanding of the specific factors affecting the mental well-being and recovery of these individuals in order to engage with them successfully. We need suitable training and more therapists from these particular backgrounds to bridge that gap.”

IAPT was launched in 2008 to boost access to therapies for people of working-age with common mental health problems.

The government has allocated £400m from 2011-15 to expand talking therapies to all who need them, be they adults of working age, children or older people, and to those with common and more serious conditions.

However, concerns have been raised that the pledge will not be fulfilled because the money for PCTs is not ring-fenced and the Department of Health IAPT has been slashed.

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