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The waiting game

Tsar admits 7,000 therapist deficit

GPs cannot hope to implement NICE depression guidance without another 7,000 therapists in England alone, the mental health tsar has admitted.

The concession came as Pulse confronted Professor Louis Appleby with the results of our special investigation, revealing a crisis in access to depression services.

Professor Appleby, responding to Pulse's demand for an extra 10,000 therapists in the UK, said: 'We have a public health need which is way beyond current capacity to treat. My own calculation was that we needed something just under 7,000 therapists more than we have.'

But Professor Appleby warn-ed ministers were unlikely to commit themselves to a target for new recruits, preferring to aim for a steady increase in numbers. He stressed there were also other solutions such as greater use of the independent sector, training staff such as health visitors and expanding availability of self-help.

Professor Appleby said the Department of Health was working with the Healthcare Commission to bring down waits for depression services ­ in line with one of Pulse's key campaign demands.

But the department's head of primary care, Gary Belfield, admitted he had neglected to prioritise mental health. He said: 'I've made a mistake in the past. You'll certainly see us changing our tack on that.'

The department said it would shortly be making an announcement on improving access to talking therapies.

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