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GPs in England are set to gain access to computerised cognitive behaviour therapy as a treatment option for mild to moderate depression.
NICE has provisionally recommended three programmes Beating the Blues, Cope and Overcoming Depression although it acknowledged evidence for the treatments was 'still limited'.
If NICE ratifies the decision in September, PCTs will be obliged to provide com-puterised treatments within three months, with GPs expected to request funding
to install software in their surgeries.
GPs have been under pressure from NICE and the Committee on Safety of Medicines to reduce antidepressant prescribing and welcomed the new treatment option.
They said the decision could relieve pressure on over-stretched psychological services, although NICE denied this had been a factor in its decision.
Professor Andre Tylee, a researcher on one of just six studies into CCBT for depression examined by NICE, said: 'It certainly could plug a gap for those patients who are happy working on a computer for eight weeks rather than seeing someone or while they are waiting to see someone.'
But Professor Tylee, a GP and professor of primary care mental health at King's College London, stressed CCBT was a good treatment in its own right.
Beating the Blues is already available in a third of PCTs through GP surgeries, mental health trusts and hospitals.
Dr John Ashcroft, a GP in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, applauded NICE's decision and said: 'It will be good to have alternatives available finally. Sometimes patients don't really want to see a therapist, they don't want to discuss things and might prefer this.'
By Cato Pedder