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PCTs fail in legal duty to offer computerised CBT

By Lilian Anekwe

More than half of PCTs in England are still failing to provide computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT), more than a year after NICE made providing the service a legal obligation.

A Pulse survey of PCTs reveals that nearly 60% have not commissioned a CCBT service that accepts GP referrals.

Pulse can also reveal that the failure to provide psychotherapy is leading to rising numbers of people claiming incapacity benefit on the grounds of mental illness.

A NICE technology appraisal published in February 2006 recommended two CCBT programmes; Beating the Blues for people with mild and moderate depression and FearFighter for people with panic and phobia.

NICE extended the deadline for PCTs to comply with the recommendations from three to nine months, but a Pulse investigation shows that more than a year after this deadline passed in November 2007, 58% of PCTs still have no CCBT programme in place.

Of those who PCTs surveyed who do have a service in place, nearly a third (31%) missed the November deadline for commissioning services set by NICE.

Nearly one in five (19%) told Pulse they were planning or either decommissioning on reviewing the CCBT services available for GP referrals because of poor uptake, or offering alternatives such as self-help and bibliotherapy.

A spokesperson for Lincolnshire PCT said: ‘Our initial experience is that uptake and patient satisfaction is not as high as has been suggested.'

Western Cheshire admitted that they were reviewing the use of CCBT as ‘The general view was that, following an extensive local pilot of this programme within GP practice when it was first developed, the evidence of its utilisation didn't support its roll out as a clinical tool within a practice based setting.'

This week the Liberal Democrats published figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showing the average wait for psychotherapy and counselling services in NHS trusts was seven months. Six trusts recording waits of more than two years.

Pulse has also obtained figures from the Department of Work and Pensions illustrating the impact the paucity of psychotherapy services has had on the number of incapacity benefit claims.

The number of people claiming because of mood affective disorders rose by more than 73,000 (16%) between May 2002 and May 2007. The number claiming for other mental and behavioural disorder rose by nearly 30,000 (7%) in the same period.

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