Therapists to “cure” 450,000 depressed and anxious people in three years, states government

New cognitive behavioural therapists will “cure” 450,000 people who have depression or anxiety within three years, ministers have announced.

This will be the achievement of the £170m Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, resulting in 25,000 fewer people on sick pay and benefits, government ministers have stated.

The NHS has been told to recruit an extra 3,700 therapists – and train them in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to treat 900,000 depressed and anxious people in Britain.

Trainee clinical psychologist, nurses and graduate mental health workers will be among those recruited to deliver therapeutic services to up to 250 patients per therapist per year.

CBT therapists are already operating in IAPT pilot sites across England and Wales.

All new therapists will be trained in “evidence-based” CBT, with no inclusion of other forms of psychological therapy, reveal Department of Health implementation plans.

Critics say other forms of counselling and therapy are as effective.

The implementation plans have been sent to NHS trusts and strategic health authorities charged with managing the recruitment of the new therapists.

“High-intensity therapists” will work with people diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, the plans reveal. Trainees will take a CBT course of postgraduate diploma level.

The high-intensity therapists will be trainee clinical psychologists and psychotherapists, nurses, counsellors and graduate mental health workers.

“Low-intensity workers” will work with people with low to moderate mental health problems.

Their role will be to encourage the “self-management” of a patient’s recovery. They will be expected to practice “guided self-help” and computerised CBT.

Low-intensity workers will have as many as 45 patients at any one time, seeing a total of 175 to 250 patients per year.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson: “These national guidelines [including implementation plans] are an important step in securing access to psychological therapies for everyone who needs them.”

Mr Johnson has promised that average waiting times for CBT will drop from the current 18 months to “a few weeks”, as CBT rolls out through the NHS.

The government announcement on Tuesday came the same day as the publication of a comprehensive meta-analysis reporting that SSRI antidepressants are of no clinical benefit when compared with placebo in mild to moderate depression, with only a slight benefit in severe depression but only because of less response to placebo.

Researchers analysed all data from clinical trials submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration for the licensing of four SSRIs — Prozac, Efexor, Serzone, and Seroxat. The peer-reviewed study was published in the Public Library of Sciencemedical journal

Mental health problems account for nearly 40% of people on incapacity benefit.

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