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Evidence for £170m talking therapies drive questioned

Researchers have questioned the evidence for the Government's psychological therapy drive.

A systematic review of the economic evidence for the rollout of the Government's £170m Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme found only two published economic evaluations on cognitive behaviour therapy.

Dr Faisal Shaikh, consultant psychiatrist at the Bushey Fields hospital in Dudley, concluded:

‘IAPT policy was not based on economic evidence favouring psychological approaches to other standard treatment. The findings from a societal perspective are equivocal at best.'

At the same time, more research emerged backing the use of antidepressants in patients with mild to moderate depression.

Further results from the THREAD study – first reported on by Pulse in March – showed patients with new mild or moderate depression given fluoxetine as well as supportive GP care showed greater improvement than those given supportive care alone.

‘Guidelines should be changed to include antidepressants as first-line treatments for mild as well as moderately severe depression,' the researchers said.

Both studies were presented at last week's Royal College of Psychiatrists annual meeting.

BBC News Online is also reporting today that experts have criticised the focus on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Professor Professor Mick Cooper, an expert in counselling at the University of Strathclyde, told a conference at the University of East Anglia: 'It is scientifically irresponsible to continue to imply and act as though CBTs are more effective, as has been done in justifying the expenditure of £173m to train CBT therapists throughout England.

'Such claims harm the public by restricting patient choice and discourage some psychologically distressed people from seeking treatment.'

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