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IAPT services to close as frontline cuts hit mental health

By Ian QuinnExclusive: NHS managers are closing down some branches of the Government’s flagship Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme as mental health services bear the brunt of cuts.The move comes despite health secretary Andrew Lansley’s pledge six months ago to expand the programme.Now projects in the Birmingham area are being decommissioned by the three PCTs in the city, with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust warning all its staff involved in the service are now at risk of redundancy.LMC leaders warn the move will rebound, with GPs forced to increase antidepressant prescribing or try and refer patients to more expensive hospital services.The three PCTs in Birmingham are to decommission IAPT services as from 31 March next year, with any future investment set to be drastically scaled back, according to documents seen by Pulse.A letter to staff from Jonathan Lloyd, director of strategic delivery at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, warns all staff in the scheme – which provides ‘talking therapy’ services for mild to moderate anxiety and depression – that their jobs are at risk.Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said the cutbacks would harm mental health care and leave GPs with the burden of picking up the pieces.‘I have also been told that GPs have been consulted about these changes, which is utter nonsense,’ he said.‘The clear truth is that funding for the service is drastically being cut and it goes without saying that they will just expect general practice to pick up the burden.Dr Morley said the impact of budget cuts would be felt by some of the most vulnerable members of society.‘These cuts are not the hospital ward or bed closures but those that most people don’t realise are happening, unless you are one of those needing the service.‘The sad fact is that is cheaper for GPs to give medication. The result will mean GPs referring more patients to hospital psychologists which will in turn ramp up the cost.’A spokesperson for Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust said: ‘Funding is due to expire on 31 March 2011, and in the absence of any extra funding, commissioners have now asked [the mental health trust] to redesign our £5m existing primary care mental health service to integrate this approach.’In June Mr Lansley pledged to continue the Labour Government’s commitment to provide 3,600 extra psychological therapists by 2011 and pledged a £70m investment over the following year.But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman, told policy makers at an event in Westminster last week that the standard of mental health services was a huge cause for concern across the country.‘Mental health services in this country are not just a Cinderella service, they are really struggling badly.’Dr Robert Morley: ‘Utter nonsense’ that GPs have consulted about changes Dr Robert Morley: ‘Utter nonsense’ that GPs have consulted about changes