NHS talking therapies ‘below target’
Less than half of patients who underwent NHS psychological treatment for anxiety or depression this year recovered from their condition, a report by the NHS Information Centre has found.
The findings are bad news for the Government-backed Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, which has set a "recovery rate" target of 50%.
Data for the first quarter of 2011 found that the national average recovery rate was just 42%, with three-quarters of primary care trusts (PCTs) falling short of the 50% target. Moreover, there was evidence of a "postcode-lottery" effect, with recovery rates ranging from 5.6% in Blackpool to 66.7% in Sandwell.
The report collated data from 145 PCTs on 210,540 patients referred by their GPs for psychological therapies, of whom just over half entered treatment. During the reporting quarter, 5001 people who had completed treatment moved off sick pay and benefits.
An estimated 6.1 million people suffer from anxiety and depression in England, meaning that access to IAPT services is low, at just 2.0%. Treatment delays are also an issue, with four in 10 patients waiting more than 4 weeks to begin therapy.
Dr Clare Gerarda, chair of the RCGP, said the findings were not surprising. "In my experience the quality of IAPT is variable," she said. "I worry that the explosion of IAPT risks us offering cognitive-behavioural therapy as the only model."
Tim Straughan, head of the NHS Information Centre, said that the figures may "reflect the pace of the roll-out of the programme". "This is the first report to look at the effectiveness of the IAPT programme," he said. "We will continue to publish reports to show the impact of the programme as it beds in further."
By Joanna Lyford