An extra 3,700 psychological therapists are to be brought into the NHS to treat people with depression and anxiety.
The mass recruitment is part of a government expansion of psychological therapy.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced that 900,000 more people will be treated for depression and anxiety over the next three years and that, by then, all GP practices will be able to prescribe psychological therapies.
It is part of the government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies scheme, largely designed to help people on incapacity benefit back to work.
Mr Johnson also promised that average waiting times for psychological therapies will drop from the current 18 months to “a few weeks”, as the therapy rolls out through the NHS.
He said that next year, in addition to the pilot sites in Newham, London, and Doncaster in Yorkshire, psychological therapy will be available in 20 new areas in England and Wales.
Mr Johnson said: “Improving access to psychological therapies will give people with mental health problems a real choice of treatment, helping to reduce dependence on medication.”
The government says that by 2011 the NHS will spend £170m per year on psychological therapies, with more than £30m in 2008/09 and more than £100m in 2009/10.
Lord Richard Layard of the London School of Economics and co-author of the Depression Report said: “Mental health is the biggest social problem in our country. This new service will bring relief from misery to millions of people.”
The government says mental health problems are the largest single cause of disability and illness in England accounting for 40% of all physical and mental disability, and taking up a third of all GP’s time.
Lord Layard says the total economic loss, in sick leave, lost jobs and reduced output, due to depression and chronic anxiety, is £12 billion a year in England.