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Children in line for more talking therapies

By Lilian Anekwe

The Government is poised to widen its psychological therapies programme to include children and adolescents, Pulse understands.

Ministers are considering the recommendations of a new report from Lord Richard Layard, the hugely influential researcher whose work underpins the programme.

The RCGP has also been lobbying the Department of Health to extend its £170m Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme to include under 18s, after a series of studies – including an analysis by Pulse – found children faced long waits for treatment.

The report by Lord Layard, prepared for Alan Johnson and Ed Balls, minister for children, schools and families, has urged the Government to expand the capacity of child and adolescent mental health services – by making talking therapies available to the estimated one in 10 school-aged children with a mental illness.

Currently only a quarter of children diagnosed with a mental illness receive the specialist care recommended in NICE guidance.

The report, seen by Pulse, states: ‘The central bottleneck is of psychological therapists. Any serious attempt to improve CAMHS should, among other things, include an IAPT-like strategy.'

It concludes: ‘I propose for the next comprehensive spending review a five-year plan to train 1,000 therapists, and in parallel to upgrade the quality of psychological assessment and therapy services.'

Lord Layard estimates the programme would cost £28 million a year once it becomes fully operational in 2013. But it would save £144,000 per QALY per child diagnosed with conduct disorder – a treatment that is cost-effective even if the success rate is as low as one in 25.

The strength of the recommendation and the influence Lord Layard wields means ministers are likely to act on his report look to provide the funds in the next comprehensive spending review.

Professor Steve Field, RCGP chair, said the college strongly supported expanding provision of psychological therapies to children. ‘We have been supportive and pushing it very hard. Richard Layard has been looking at this issue closely and I'm lobbying personally to extend the talking therapies programme to kids.'

Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced in March last year the plan to recruit and train 3,600 therapists to provide cognitive behavioural therapy and other talking therapies to all eligible adult patients referred by 2011.

Report recommendations

• A five-year plan to train 1,000 extra therapist and to upgrade the quality of psychological assessment and therapy services by 2013
• Every child referred to tier specialist secondary care teams should receive a fully professional assessment, and 300 people should be trained to do the assessments
• A dedicated research fund to look into appropriate therapies for children and adolescents

Source: Child mental health: key to a healthier society. Richard Layard.

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