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IAPT programme grabs mental health cash

Exclusive: The headline-grabbing rollout of the Government's flagship psychological therapies programme has not been funded by new money and comes at the expense of existing mental health initiatives, Pulse can reveal.

Projected figures for mental health funding from 60 PCTs show GPs face a shrinking choice of services to which they can refer patients, with overall funding flat as the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) rollout continues.

The Government has recently promised to broaden the scope of the programme for children and young people – with £22m of extra funding – but a report released this week criticised the ‘monoculture' the programme promotes in mental healthcare.

Responses obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show mental health funding for 2012/13 is projected to be an average of £50m for each of the 46 PCTs able to supply data, the same amount allocated in 2011/12 and a marginal increase on spending for 2010/11.

While these figures remain flat, the spend on IAPT is increasing to an average of £1.6m in 2012/13 for each of the 47 PCTs able to supply figures, a 16% increase since 2010/11 and a 1% increase compared with 2011/12. The proportion of mental health funding going on IAPT jumped from 2.1% in 2009/10 to 3.3% in 2012/13.

This shift is leading to long waits in some areas for non-IAPT services, with Lincolnshire Teaching PCT reporting a wait of 52 weeks, and Bromley PCT and Stockport PCT reporting waits of up to six months.

A report from the Centre for Social Justice said the IAPT programme had resulted in pressure for the ‘disproportionate' use of cognitive behaviour therapy, and encouraged PCTs to consider commissioning a range of therapies to relieve pressure on GPs.

Professor Helen Lester, a GP in Birmingham, said in some ways the figures were positive: ‘It's a relief to see the IAPT budget seems to have not been cut.'

But Dr Les Ashton, a GP in Leicester and member of the editorial board for Primary Care Mental Health Journal, said: ‘The Government has made clear there are rising expectations for the service, so you have to get funding from somewhere. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul.'

Attend the Mental Health Forum 2012 to hear Professor Helen Lester's advice on managing serious mental illness in general practice

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