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Talking therapies a victim of their own success, says DH



Patients with mental health problems are having trouble accessing psychological therapies due to their own ‘success’ at at attracting patients, says the Department of Health.

The DH said that more patients were being referred to the flagship Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme and this had resulted in longer waiting times in some areas, but that it was working to introduce new waiting time standards.

The response comes after leading mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned that one in 10 people waited over a year for talking therapies after their initial GP referral.

They found a significant number of patients (11%) said that they had to pay for treatment themselves because the therapy they wanted was not available on the NHS.

A Pulse investigation in October found that the IAPT scheme was struggling to achieve its targets, with recovery rates dipping and patients in some areas waiting over a year for treatment.

The DH response reiterated a commitment to looking at introducing maximum waiting times for talking therapies, as was also mentioned recently by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

A statement published by the DH said: ‘Despite the good progress that has been made in expanding the IAPT service, new challenges have emerged. Because of the initial success of the programme, more people are being offered the service and waiting lists have built up in some areas.

‘The department is keen to make sure mental health is treated equally with physical health, and this means ensuring that people do not experience excessively long waits for treatment.’