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Rollout plan revealed for talking therapies

The Department of Health has announced the next stage in plans to roll out psychological therapies, with proposals for as many as 10 new pilot sites across the UK.

The plans follow the success of two initial psychological therapy pilots in Doncaster and Newham, east London.

They come as a significant boost to Pulse's Action on Depression campaign, which is pressing for recruitment of 10,000 extra therapists and maximum waiting times for therapy.But there are concerns the partial rollout is merely a stalling exercise, with data from the pilots not to be assessed until 2008, and further investment delayed until after that.

Roslyn Hope, director of the National Institute for Mental Health, said the sites would 'have to be up and running during 2007/8, and producing evidence in order to secure further investment in 2008/9'.

Announcing the plans at the Primary Care Mental Health conference in Lincoln this week, she said: 'The criteria will choose sites with a proven track record in commissioning psychological therapies, as it will be a mix of general practice provision and practice-based commissioning.'

The talking therapy programme, aimed at encouraging people back into work by treating their depression and anxiety using cognitive behavioural therapies, has already reduced worklessness in Newham by 10 per cent. Pulse understands the new sites will similarly be focused on people of working age.But Professor Louis Appleby, the Government's mental health tsar, warned it was important not to focus unduly on worklessness.

'We need to be a little careful we don't overplay its importance. There are a range of benefits from psychological therapies, and reducing worklessness is just one of those.'

Moira Fraser, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said: 'We know it works – how many pilot sites do we need to show that it works?'The department said the pilots would begin in the late summer and would be awarded through competitive tender.

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