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Psychological therapies set for Government cash

Department of Health praises success of 'milestone' pilot study

The Government is set to move at last on psychological therapies after releasing positive early data from one of its much-heralded pilot sites.

Health minister Rosie Winterton went out of her way to hail the success of the scheme in Doncaster, one of two seen as vital for justifying a full-scale investment programme.

It now seems highly likely that the Government will commit to substantial investment in talking therapies in its 2007 spending review.

The Department of Health said the pilot in Doncaster had already significantly relieved the burden on GPs, taking on the management of 100 patients a week. It described the pilot findings as an 'important milestone'.

The results came as a major new report ratcheted up the pressure on ministers, claiming investment in psychological therapies was 'long overdue'.

Five mental health charities compiled the report – We need to Talk – which mirrored Pulse's Action on Depression campaign in demanding increased numbers of therapists and maximum waiting time targets.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, one of the five charities, said the minimum he would expect would be funding to implement NICE guidance.

Mr Farmer added: 'We know GPs are frustrated. If we had a nationwide programme in place that allows a roll-out of the current models at a local level, we would see the difference within the next two to three years.'

GPs involved in the Doncaster pilot said it had significantly improved their depression care, although there were concerns at the initial remit of the pilot, which focused on getting people on incapacity benefit back to work.

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, and chair of the NICE mental health guideline review panel, was highly sceptical that the results would mark a sea change for mental health.

He said: 'Doncaster is an isolated example. Provision of talking therapies is woefully inadequate in the majority of cases. NICE guidance for treatment is not achievable given inadequate resources.'

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