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Demand for CBT far outstripping supply

Waiting lists for talking therapies are set to spiral further out of control without urgent Government action, a Pulse analysis reveals. Growth in demand for cognitive behavioural therapy is far outstripping the rate of recruitment of therapists to the NHS, writes Nerys Hairon.

The analysis came as the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection announced they would investigate access to psychological therapies as part of a review of community mental health services.

Figures obtained by Pulse from private analysts CompuFile show a massive increase in the number of patients with anxiety and depression referred for CBT.

Monthly referrals for England, Scotland and Wales jump-ed from 1,155 patients in January 2001 to 4,375 in December 2005 ­ a 3.8-fold increase.

But Government workforce data for England shows a rise

of only 47 per cent in clinical psychologists over five years, from 3,763 in 1999 to 5,518 in 2004.

The Government's mental health tsar, Professor Louis Appleby, admitted the increase in therapists was failing to keep pace with the demand for psychological therapies.

He said: 'What we've got is an increase in the number who want psychological therapies, and an increase in therapists which isn't able to keep pace with that demand.'

Professor Andre Tylee, professor of primary care mental health at King's College London, said: 'Unless something radical is done to increase numbers of therapists it will get worse.'

He added: 'This seems ridiculous when so many graduates cannot get on to courses for clinical psychology.'

Support is building in the Commons for Pulse's 'Action

on Depression' campaign for 10,000 extra therapists and interim GP guidance.

Anne Milton, member of the health select committee and Conservative MP for Guildford, said she would push for the committee to investigate therapy access as part of its inquiry into NHS workforce needs.

'We are looking at workforce in the NHS and that should include therapists,' she said.

Liberal Democrat Dr Evan Harris has put down an early day motion expressing concern at Pulse's investigation results, which is jointly sponsored by health select committee member and Tory MP Mike Penning.

Two other MPs ­ Labour's Lynne Jones and Liberal Democrat Annette Brooke ­ have posted parliamentary questions in response to the Pulse campaign.

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