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Two-thirds of GPs say long waits ‘biggest barrier’ to treatments for mental illness

Two-thirds of GPs say long waiting times for psychological therapy are preventing patients getting treatment for common mental health problems, a survey has revealed.

The findings suggest GPs are struggling to offer the most appropriate therapy because of lack of access to services – in stark contrast to recent claims by Prime Minister David Cameron that GPs were failing to treat patients or offer them ‘increasingly available’ cognitive behavioural therapy.

The survey of 1,000 GPs in England showed that 66% see waiting times for psychological therapy as the ‘biggest barrier to treatment’.

The research – commissioned by a provider of online mental health therapy services for the NHS – also included focus group discussions, in which GPs reported that longer waiting times for talking therapies would make them more inclined to prescribe antidepressants as a stop-gap.

The report also highlighted that 37% of patients referred for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services did not enter treatment in 2013/14, while 11% – around 76,000 – waited 90 days or longer to be seen.

In a raft of recommendations, the report calls for the Department of Health to retain the original IAPT targets on waiting times and treatment response, and for triage to be managed by independent parties rather than providers of IAPT.

Latest official figures on IAPT up to the end of June this year show that, nationally, new waiting targets – for 75% of patients to be treated within six weeks and 95% within 18 weeks – which were mandated by the Department of Health from April, are already being met.

However, waiting times continue to vary markedly across CCGs, while original IAPT key performance measures – for the average waiting time to fall within 28 days and for 50% of patients to recover – are still not being met. 

Readers' comments (7)

  • There is also the problem that increasing access to GPs by 7 day working doesn't increase access to the 5 day IAPT services.

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  • IAPT is not the be all, end all, patients need to be seen by psychiatrists who do a thorough evaluation of the patients problem, look at history, deal with root causes and stop using the multiple choice quiz i.e. the ICD10.

    Today patients only ever get to see a CPN whois not a psychiatrist or doctor. Nobody looks at root causes and psychiatrists, where oh where do they hide all day avoiding contact with patients?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Darther Vader should swallow a piece of paper with these figures written on it in the next PMQ and apologise to the public .
    (Oh! Sorry , my mistake,Darth Vader wears a black mask with no mouth to eat!)

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  • Surprised it was only two thirds that said this.

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  • I worked for 4 years for a GP practice as their practice counsellor, managing my own client list and diary. Although referral rates have increased since then I did not have lengthy waiting lists and clients were seen within 4 weeks. I then worked for a NHS Trust in a large team of counsellors for 14 years where waiting lists were often several months. Big is not always best!

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  • This is the reality camoron
    You are responsible for nhs underfunding and undermining as well as lot of the social causes of mental illness
    Only a politician can achieve such a depth of arrogant ignorant breathtaking hypocrisy and cowardly passing the buck of personal responsibility like a child

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  • The treatment of mental illness in UK is drugs with a little psychotherapy sometimes.Nobody seems to be finding out what is really wrong with the patient. I am a GP in Dublin with a major interest in the biochemistry of mental health. I check for example methylation,copper. zinc, various other minerals and vitamins and caeruloplasmin.Women with panic attacks or post-natal depression almost always have high copper which can be brought down with zinc and occasionally molybdenum. SSRIs do little for them. In recent times I have seen three consultants from NHS UK with anxiety/depression.They are well now with nutrients only. A useful book is Nutrient Power by William Walsh PhD.

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