Mental health: Alan Johnson pledges faster talking therapy roll-out

Health secretary Alan Johnson has announced a faster roll-out of the government’s talking therapies programme to help tackle the impact of the recession on mental health.

He said the government would roll-out talking therapy services in 81 areas in 2009-10, 25% more than originally planned, in addition to the 35 services up and running already.

The government’s talking therapies programme aims to treat an additional 900,000 people with common mental health problems by training 3,600 new therapists from 2008-11.

£13m to help victims of recession

The move is part of a £13m package of measures announced yesterday to support people experiencing depression or other mental health problems as a result of economic problems.

Other pledges include:-

  • Having employment support workers linked to every talking therapy service.
  • Having health advisers trained to spot people who might be experiencing depression as a result of economic problems available on a dedicated NHS Direct phone line.

PCTs urged to invet in debt advice

Johnson also said primary care trusts would be encouraged to use up to £80m of savings made due to the temporary reduction in VAT from 17.5% to 15% this year to commission debt advice and family counselling services.

The added support was welcomed by mental health charity Mind and the NHS Confederation.

Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, said: “The recession is not just affecting people’s bank balances; it is having a huge human cost too. Redundancy and money worries put strain on family relationships, cause sleepless nights, trigger stress and increase the risk of developing depression.”

Essential £80m is spent

He said it was essential that all of the £80m earmarked for PCTs to spend on support services was used.

The confederation’s chief executive, Steve Barrett, said the funding would enable NHS organisations to “develop the skills and capacity needed to further improve access to psychological therapies”.

However, he warned that finding more staff to do these jobs would be “challenging”, adding: “It will also be necessary to target those areas in greatest need and sort out the funding implications beyond the period this package covers.”

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