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Pressing case for depression funds

A senior Government adviser has set out the detail of the economic case for a mass expansion in access to psychological therapies.

The major new report from the London School of Economics raises the temperature on the Treasury, which has so far resisted calls to fund a programme of psychological treatment centres.

It came as a second, Audit Commission, report uncovered stark variation in the amount PCTs spend on mental health – which could not be explained by differences in trust populations. Expenditure varied from less than £75 to more than £300 per head, fuelling concerns over a lottery in access to depression services.

The LSE Depression Report estimated depression and anxiety cost the UK £12 billion a year in lost economic output – 1 per cent of the total national income – and cost the taxpayer £7 billion a year. Yet a full programme of therapy would cost just £0.6 billion.

Lord Richard Layard, author of the report, wants to see 250 treatment centres rolled out across the UK by 2013 at the rate of 40 a year from 2007.

Lord Layard, chair of the mental health policy group at the LSE's Centre for Economic Performance, welcomed a Government announcement of two pilot psychological treatment centres but said it was 'a shame' there had not yet been a full rollout.

Lord Layard, who said he supported Pulse's Action on Depression campaign for 10,000 new therapists, urged GPs to lobby MPs on his plans. 'I look at it the same way Pulse does. Mental health is a huge problem.'

The report said a therapy service should treat 800,000 people a year, with an extra 10,000 therapists, most offering therapy in GP surgeries.

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