More people are accessing NHS psychological therapies, but only half move into recovery, according to new figures
"We’re pleased that the NHS has rightly met some of its ambitious targets for people who need access to talking therapies. However, we’re still concerned that IAPT only meets the needs of 50% of the people who access it.” Paul Spencer, head of health, policy and campaigns, Mind
There was a 21.5% increase in access to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services in 2021-2022 over the previous year, NHS Digital figures show.
The figures are published in a report, Psychological Therapies: Annual Report on the use of IAPT services, England 2021-22, which analyses activity, waiting times and outcomes such as recovery in that time period. The IAPT programme is run by the NHS and offers therapeutic treatment for conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and phobias. It uses therapies approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), guided self-help, eye movement desensitisation reprocessing, and interpersonal psychotherapy. Patients can be referred by their GP or self-refer.
According to the report, 1.24m referrals accessed IAPT services in 2021-2022, compared to 1.02 million in 2020-2021. The total number of referrals increased from 1.46 million to 1.81 million from the previous year 2021-2022, a rise of 24.5%.
The number of referrals completing a course of treatment increased by 4.6 percent, with 50.2 percent of referrals moving into recovery, down 1.2 percent from the previous year.
Paul Spencer, head of health, policy and campaigns at the mental health charity, Mind, told Pulse: “There’s such a long way to go. We know timely and appropriate treatment can make all the difference for those of us with mental health problems, so we’re pleased that the NHS has rightly met some of its ambitious targets for people who need access to talking therapies. However, we’re still concerned that IAPT only meets the needs of 50% of the people who access it.”
According to a dashboard accompanying the report, the most commonly-used therapy was CBT, followed by guided self-help and counselling.
Other findings in the report include:
Spencer said: “IAPT services are seeing increased complexity in the people presenting to them, which is reflected in the increase in the number of average sessions. But with over a million people still waiting to access mental health support, the UK government must urgently and dramatically commit to improving mental health services both nationally and locally to make sure that everyone gets the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”
These new figures show that the number of people receiving mental health help has increased dramatically, probably in response to increased demand. This is in line with what we’ve seen from our user research about use of mental health tools. While it’s encouraging to see that the IAPT service is treating more people, the fact that only half move on to recovery is disappointing, and suggests that the NHS needs to explore the potential of a wider variety of treatments, particularly for those patients with more complex mental health problems. More visibility of patient outcome and engagement with service users would help to demonstrate where the approach is working well and where it needs improvement.