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Study lays bare acute shortage in therapists

A new study exposes just how far the Government will have to travel to meet its pledge for universal access to psychological therapies.

By Nerys Hairon

Researchers have found fewer than half of community mental health teams in Wales are providing the services for elderly patients. It comes after last week's White Paper hailed the growing role of talking therapies in treating mild depression

Pulse this week launches a major new survey of GPs to establish the extent of the shortages nationwide as the pressure grows on ministers to commit to a timetable for action.

GPs can fill in the survey, developed with professional group Primary Care Mental Health and Education, on the enclosed insert or online (see panel, below).

The new study, a survey of old age psychiatrists in Wales, found just 45 per cent of 29 community mental health teams had team members providing psychological therapy.

A further 38 per cent had access only through generic psychotherapy or psychology services ­ with waiting times of around five months. Some 17 per cent had no access to psychological therapies at all.

Study leader Dr Ceri Evans, a specialist registrar in old age psychiatry in Newport, Gwent, said: 'This study shows that in some areas of Wales there is limited or no access to psychological therapies. More than one in six community mental health teams for older people have no access to psychological therapies whatsoever.'

The researchers, whose study was published in Psychiatric Bulletin (January), called for recruitment of mental health workers, improved training and new ways of working.

Dr Ian Millington, a GP in Swansea and secretary of Morgannwg LMC, said: 'Waiting lists are long for all psychological services. The first thing the Government needs to do is find out the extent of the problem.'

GPs outside of Wales also reported problems.

Dr David Lloyd, a GP in Harrow, Middlesex, said he only had access to CBT for the severely mentally ill: 'I am very unhappy with the service. The community mental health team has a severe illness focus and no funding for mild illness.'

Dr Graham Jackson, a GP with an interest in mental health in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, said: 'It's very difficult throughout the country.'


How you can take part in survey

Pulse this week launches a nationwide investigation into access to depression services, in association with professional group Primary Care Mental Health and Education.

You can take part by filling in the inserted survey, or going online at www.pulse-i.co.uk/depression.

Pulse will also be conducting a wider inquiry into access to depression services.

Dr Chris Manning, chief executive of Primhe, said: 'We frequently hear about the state of services for mental health problems and we are keen now to investigate the extent of the problem.'

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