A new independent report, commissioned by Ieso Digital Health, calls on the Government and NHS England to further improve access to psychological therapies to bring about true ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health patients.
The independent study conducted by healthcare consultancy JMC Partners, ‘Psychological therapies: next steps towards parity of care’, analyses progress to date of the NHS’ flagship ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) programme.
Overall, it judges the IAPT scheme to have been “a remarkable success story”. In its first six years (2008/9-2013/14), the number of people seen under the programme has soared from 40,000 to over 1.1million, while average recovery rates have risen from 37 per cent in 2009/2010 to 45 per cent in 2013/14.
But the report also highlights findings that suggest more can be done to ensure mental health patients in England get equal access to effective psychological therapies. In the current climate of financial constraint within the NHS, it argues this can be done without significant additional investment.
The report lists 21 recommendations cutting across the Department of Health, NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and other bodies.
In examining access to psychological therapies, the report uncovers a number of stark findings:
The health, social and economic cost of mental ill-health is estimated at £105 billion each year in England, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Key recommendations from the report, which features excerpts from interviews with leading figures in mental health nationally, including NHS England Director of Mental Health Geraldine Strathdee and Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of London’s Primary Care Clinical Board, Hurley Group, and former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), include:
The report also notes that in localities where IAPT services are primarily based around face-to-face therapies, services may struggle to meet demand and lead to longer waiting lists. It calls for greater awareness to be made of other options, particularly technological innovations that deliver effective treatment.
Barnaby Perks, CEO of Ieso Digital Health, which commissioned the report, said:
"The IAPT programme has seen a remarkable increase in the numbers of people being treated for common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Combined with new access and waiting time targets, it is making a reality of the Government’s vision for mental health to have ‘parity of esteem’ with physical illness."
"Six years into the programme, now seems like an appropriate time to evaluate progress and also take an objective look at the evidence to see where access to effective therapies can be improved. In particular, we need to make sure that GPs and patients have access to, and are made aware of, different forms of treatment such as digitally-enabled services that allow patients to be seen quickly and treated effectively by professional therapists."
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