Access to talking therapies still patchy, finds Mind

One in 10 people referred for talking therapies is waiting more than two years for treatment, to the detriment of their mental health and job prospects, Mind reveals today.

One in 10 people referred for talking therapies is waiting more than two years for treatment, to the detriment of their mental health and job prospects, Mind reveals today.

The charity found access was still patchy and inconsistent despite the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme launched in 2008 to boost levels of treatment and now receiving £173m a year.

Mind called for funding for the programme’s maintenance and development to be included in the government’s comprehensive spending review, which will report next Wednesday and set public spending limits for 2011-15.

The report for the We Need to Talk coalition, which campaigns for better access to therapy, said talking therapies were a cost-effective way of tackling the £105bn cost of mental distress to the English economy.

It found that IAPT had dramatically improved waiting times for people with depression or anxiety.

However across England, one in five people is still waiting over a year to access psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling, Mind’s survey of 527 people in April this year found.

Those waiting three months or less were over twice as likely to be happy with their treatment as those waiting 10-11 months, and five times more likely to report that therapy had helped them into work as those waiting one to two years.

The problem has been acknowledged by care services minister Paul Burstow, who has signalled the coalition’s support for the scheme. In an article for Community Care last month, he said: “Slow take-up means many still face long waits for these treatments, and thousands of people around the country are therefore being consigned to months of anguish and uncertainty.”

Mind’s research also found:

• Eight per cent of those surveyed had full choice in the therapy they received

• People offered a choice were three times more likely to be happy with their treatment than those who wanted a choice but didn’t get it.

• People offered a choice were five times as likely to report that therapy definitely helped them back to work as those who were not.

• Under two-thirds (61%) of people with severe mental health problems are offered evidence-based psychological therapies.

• Children, older people, men and those from black and minority ethnic groups remain underserved by psychological therapies.

Among 14 recommendations, the coalition, which includes other mental health charities, professional organisations and service providers, said that people should be given a full and informed choice when accessing psychological therapies.

However it added that commissioners must not use IAPT funds as an excuse to cut resources to other psychological therapy services.

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