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Labour pledges to give right to psychological therapies on NHS

Labour will give patients the right to receive psychological therapies under the NHS constitution if elected, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham announced today (Thursday).

The move comes as Labour accused the Government of trying to hide the scale of cuts to mental health services by scrapping the annual review of mental health expenditure in the NHS.

Speaking at a mental health conference hosted by the University of Chester Centre for Psychological Therapies in Primary Care, Mr Burnham said despite progress in removing the stigma of mental health problems, the NHS still had much to do to achieve equality of care for mental and physical problems envisaged when it was first set up by Aneurin Bevan.

Burnham said the NHS constitution needed to be changed to empower patients to gain access to appropriate talking therapies, rather than ‘just pills’ as currently is their right through the inclusion of NICE approved technologies.

He said: ‘We need to empower people, individuals to get what they need. One of things we are saying is, could we strengthen the NHS – and give people the right to counselling or to talking therapy because currently the only right in this regard is a right to pills. There is a right to NICE-approved technologies but there isn’t a right to [psychological] support.’

Speaking to Pulse, Burnham said he was proud to have played a part in the Government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, but admitted it was failing to deliver in some areas, with long waiting times.

He said: ‘Certainly we will carry on funding talking therapies – I think it’s the beginning of a journey not the end of it. It’s true there can be very wide variation in services, particularly waiting times.’

‘But I’m also thinking of a new vision for general practice of “whole-person” care.’

He added: ‘I’ve shadowed GPs lately and I’ve seen people come in who are very similar to some of the people who come into my surgery. They are often people for whom the “blockage” in their health is often to do with bereavements, relationships, housing, benefits. I’ve often been with GPs when they’ve prescribed antidepressants – and I’ve asked them, if you’d been able to refer them for bereavement counselling, would that have been better – and they say “absolutely”.’

‘I’d like to see NHS money spent prescribing social rather than medical interventions – wouldn’t that help to empower general practice.’

Readers' comments (5)

  • Vinci Ho

    Ideally , each GP practice should have some sessions of an in house talking therapist but we all know that will not happen universally. Perhaps one therapist shared by a few practices(not sure about a 'federation') is a possibility........

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  • If, as a population, we were well equipped to deal with the perceived uncertainties and adverse events of life I am sure our well being would be hugely improved. Much of the adult population in the UK struggles with an unhelpful thinking style, and thus their kids may not have the best direction to achieving a helpful belief system, thinking styles and coping strategies.
    A helpful belief system (and I don't mean that in the religious sense), helpful coping strategies and helpful thinking styles are potential achievable by all....but it can take hard work and the right resources/guidance to achieve this....our gray matter really doesn't find it easily to change it's line of thought or the chunking of information (aka assumptions) it makes.

    Andy....it sounds like you are genuinely motivated to push resources in this direction which has to be commended.
    Resources must also be used in a proactive way, for the younger generations, to help them develop helpful belief systems, thinking styles and coping strategies from an early age.........this is much easier to do than to alter unhelpful thinking at a later stage.
    In my opinion greatly increased psychological therapies for those that need it, and proactive teaching of children, is tax payers money extremely well spent.
    GP (anon)

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  • I was in great need of psychological therapies due to long term depression (under continuous medical attention for 20 years). The referral letter was sent by my GP in lateJune 2013, and 7 weeks later I received a letter from the local IAPT. The letter informed me that the referral had been received and that I would be contacted in due course. In the mean time I was asked to complete a standard mood questionnaire in preparation for contact by therapist. This highlighted the high state of need and the depth of my depression. Ten weeks later I received a letter offering an appointment for three weeks hence. The entire wait for service from time of initial referral to date of first therapy appointment was 21 weeks. With a supportive family, good GP assistance, and change in medication, my mood lifted.
    It seems such a pity that the wait, at the time of severe crisis (underlined by the competing and self-scoring of a depression rating scale), was so great. It would be interesting to see how many appointmewnts are not kept as the patient has given up all hope and ended their misery.

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  • Is he going to bring psycho-therapists under statutory regulation?

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  • IAPT..... a joke. Led by misguided managers and although involving many committed 'therapists' they are overloaded. I'm aware of many committed workers but they are struggling with so many actual and potential referrals. Basic assessments (just that!) and inappropriate telephone contacts and follow ups are absolutely useless! Medico legal access to GP reports indicates useless access to IAPT - feedback indicates the same! "Not that helpful"! Mr. Adrian McGrath C.Psychol. CSci. AFBPsS - CBT Therapist.

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