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Talking therapies plan under fire

The researchers whose work

underpins the Government's drive to expand access to talking therapies have criticised

the pilots for excluding elderly patients.

Their comments add to a growing chorus of disapproval (see box left) over fears that the Government plans only to fund psychological therapy for patients of working age.

The size of the mental health challenge in the elderly is emphasised by a new report from the Medical Research Council, which estimates almost one person in 10 over the age of 65 suffers from depression.

Against that backdrop, two signatories to the landmark

Depression Report, which called for 10,000 extra therapists to

be recruited over a seven-year period, added their voices to the growing disquiet over the 'narrow perspective' of the talking therapy pilots.

The criticisms are significant because the report, which was published in June 2006 by the London School of Economics mental health policy group,

has been seen as a key influ-ence on Government policy.

Professor David Clark, head of the department of psychology at King's College London, said the report had called for

an across-the-board increase in access to talking therapies, and that the benefits applied to all – not just those of working age. 'For people who are employed, there are benefits to treatment in terms of fewer days off sick. But much of the benefits of treatment, not just in people of working age, can be gained by treating and providing access to psychological therapies to all groups.'

Professor Martin Knapp, director of the centre for the economics of mental health at King's College London, said the Government's pilot scheme had been successful in improving awareness and funding, but warned it was important older people were not excluded.

'It's good that the Department of Work and Pensions has got involved, but we need to make sure that older people are allowed to get involved. It seems a slightly narrow perspective not to offer it to older people if it is appropriate.'

lanekwe@cmpmedica.com

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