Recruitment hopes wane as talking therapies pilot limited to two areas

The government scheme, expected to be announced soon, will focus on changing the approach taken by existing mental health services in service delivery, but it will bring few opportunities to hire new staff.

The first element will use the Pathways to Work model to help people with common mental health problems return to work.

The second will build on the government’s recent strategy for the health and wellbeing of working-age people by providing therapy to help people with mental health problems maintain their employment. This strand is likely to be delivered by occupational health workers.

Hopes of large-scale funding for the programme were raised by Lord Layard’s call in August for 10,000 new therapists to deliver therapy on the NHS to anyone needing it.

But Roslyn Hope, director of the National Institute for Mental Health in England’s national workforce programme, told last week’s Mental Health Nurses Association conference the scheme would involve two “demonstration sites”.

It is understood they will be used to make a case for further funding in the 2007 spending review. In addition to the full pilots, aspects of the programme will be tested in the institute’s nine regions.

The institute is already testing parts of the approach in Lincolnshire, where it has provided a project manager to help embed a therapeutic approach within the whole mental health system and reduce waiting times for talking therapy.

Andy Bell, director of communications at the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, said: “It’s right to say there’s a lot of resources out there in terms of people trained in all sorts of psychological therapy who could be better used.”

But he warned deploying them to deliver therapy would not necessarily be cost-free as someone would have to cover for them.

Bell said it would be more difficult for small employers to get involved in the scheme. He also suggested it should help maintain people in education or training, which was where they often dropped out for the first time.

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