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Beating the Blues? Where is it then?

Open letter to health secretary Alan Johnson

Further to our previous correspondence on the availability of NICE-approved treatments for mental health, I applaud your recent announcement that you plan to support the rapidly increasing numbers of jobless people suffering from depression as a result of the economic downturn, with initiatives to provide increased access to psychological therapies ('More cash for talking therapies to stave off depression').

What I find hard to understand is the Department of Health's reluctance to implement its existing commitments to make the NICE-approved computerised cognitive behaviour therapy Beating the Blues available across the NHS.

Your department made this commitment in the white paper Our Care, Our Health, Our Say in January 2006. And your predecessor, Patricia Hewitt, at the MIND annual conference in April 2007, announced: 'Over 2007/8, the establishment of cCBT in every PCT in England will be an important building block in the delivery of comprehensive psychological therapy services.'

Beating the Blues is the only NICE-approved cCBT for depression and anxiety. This treatment is available now, not in 2010/11, when the numbers suffering from depression will have increased significantly due to this recession. To date, just nine of 153 PCTs meet the original NICE guidance for cCBT in full and a postcode lottery has developed with a chasm between rhetoric and reality.

That only about 15% of PCTs comply with binding NICE guidance is utterly unacceptable, as I hope you would agree. Yet your answer to this when questioned was: 'Individual patients who are dissatisfied with any aspect of NHS treatment - including the non-availability of treatments to which they are entitled - should consider raising their concerns through the established complaints procedure.'

I do not see how it is possible to say a treatment would be available everywhere and that it is integral to the delivery of the IAPT programme, while avoiding any responsibility for its actual availability.

From Nigel Brabbins, chief executive, Ultrasis

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