CBT pilot programs hailed a success [England]
Sunday May 13, 2007

Following the success of the psychological therapies pilot program in Doncaster and Newham, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt today announced new funding for a further ten pathfinder projects.

At any one time, one in six adults experiences a mental health problem - more than will suffer from cancer or heart disease - and many of these suffer from more common problems such as anxiety or depression. Clinical evidence shows that better access to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help cure depression and reduce time off work due to ill-health. Patients also prefer talking therapy, just one example of CBT, rather than being dependent on medication alone. (Admin comment: Actually, it's the other way 'round - CBT is just one example of "talk therapy".)

The Department of Health Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies program currently has two demonstration sites which are linked to regional networks of local improvement projects. The sites are showing that quicker access to therapy services can help patients to recover from illness and return to leading an independent lifestyle, particularly in terms of returning to work or finding employment.

Speaking at the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies conference in London, Patricia Hewitt announced that the ten new pilots will lead the way in expanding access to talking therapies across England, backed by investment of ?2 million.

"The blight of mental illness is an issue we are committed to tackling. Central to our efforts is the ability for people who are ill to be able to quickly get the right kind of therapy, instead of being prescribed medication. Mental health services are improving but we want to offer patients greater choice over how, when and where they are treated, said Patricia Hewitt.

"A year ago, I launched two demonstration sites to establish the best way of providing therapy and to examine the benefits of this treatment approach. One year on and PCTs are now obliged to provide computerised CBT to patients.

"The demonstration sites are showing early signs that if you provide quick access to therapy services, the time that patients are ill is reduced and individuals are better able regain their independence - for example by getting or keeping a job.

"I am pleased to announce today the next phase in the program, with the establishment of 10 more PCT-led demonstration sites across England. We have a vision that, one day, people will have the choice of quickly and conveniently accessing a range of therapy services, for example via the internet or the local library. But for this to happen, we need a range of different organizations - such as social enterprises - to form partnerships with the health sector and apply to run these new sites. Together we can help to reduce the impact of mental illness."
The projects in Doncaster and Newham have proved highly successful - the Doncaster project alone has already seen 2,500 patients, with clinical outcomes exceeding the expectations set down by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and 9 out of 10 patients saying that they were highly satisfied with the service.

Ann, a patient at the Doncaster project who is speaking at the conference, suffered from clinical depression. Two years ago, she underwent a course of CBT and as a result, was able to come off medication. She now uses CBT as part of an ongoing coping strategy. Commenting on the benefits of CBT.

"Psychological therapy has made a huge difference to my life and basically helped me to keep functioning, Ann said.

"CBT involves helping yourself by recognizing and challenging negative thoughts. It is now very much part of my every day existence and has helped me to get an entirely new, far more positive outlook on life."
Psychological therapies have more than a purely mental health benefit. Helping people to cope better with anxiety and depression can also have a positive effect on physical health, therefore leading to fewer hospital admissions and less dependency on local GP services for those who also have a long term condition. Investing in talking therapies can reduce costs not only in primary and secondary care, but can also impact other areas of people's lives, for example, by helping them to get back to work.

A positive practice guide to increasing access to psychological therapies was also launched at the conference. 'Commissioning a Brighter Future' explains why the Government is committed to increasing access and highlights examples of best practice from across England.