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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
Call to tackle therapist shortage
Woman with head in hands
Campaigners are calling for better access to talking therapies
Too little is being done to tackle the shortage of talking therapies for people with depression, mental health campaigners say.

The charity Mind welcomed two government-backed talking therapy pilot centres aimed at helping people back to work, but called for more action fast.

If the 18 month pilots work, the scheme could be rolled out across England.

The charity Sane said 83% of callers to its helpline take medication while only 6% receive therapy for depression.

The centres, offering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) will be in Doncaster and Newham.

They will be open to all adults of working age, but it will be particularly targeted at the one in three people on Incapacity Benefit who have depression in a bid to help them back to work, as well as improve their condition.

Eighty-three per cent of people reporting depression or anxiety disorders are receiving medication, while only 4% are receiving psychotherapy and only 2% CBT
Marjorie Wallace, Sane

Launching the pilots, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "Millions of people suffer from mild to moderate mental health problems, and treating them takes up about a third of GPs' time.

"Too many people are prescribed medication as a quick fix solution, but talking therapies work equally well and patients prefer to receive them.

"I hope that these pilot sites will provide real, tangible evidence of the effectiveness of investing in talking therapies.

"They will help break the cycle of deprivation, where poor health leads to unemployment and wasted lives as people fail to reach their full potential."

Jo Webber, deputy director of policy at managers' organisation the NHS Confederation, said: "Once someone has been on incapacity benefit for two years, they are more likely to die or retire than get a job.

"So we are glad that the potential for psychological therapies to help people with mental health problems return to work is going to be explored."

'Dramatic advance'

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: "We are delighted to finally see delivery of pilot schemes for these urgently needed alternative treatments to medication, now advocated by several National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines as frontline treatments.

"Giving people the chance to learn coping strategies and self-management techniques can help reduce the risk of mental health problems returning later on."

Rethink chief executive Cliff Prior said: "This could be the beginning of a dramatic advance in mental health.

"We hope that the pilot sites will report quickly and positively so that this initiative can become a full national programme available to everyone who needs it."

Angela Greatley, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, said: "Faster access to psychological therapies should not be restricted to those with depression and anxiety.

"People with complex and severe mental health problems can also benefit hugely from it.

"These people must not be forgotten in a headlong rush to get those with the simplest needs back to work

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, added: "Our evidence from several hundred thousand callers to our helpline reveals a shocking situation in which 83% of people reporting depression or anxiety disorders are receiving medication, while only 4% are receiving psychotherapy and only 2% CBT."

But shadow health minister Tim Loughton said: "With only 10% of people suffering from depression receiving any kind of psychological therapy it is simply not good enough for the government to say they will monitor the success of these two centres.

"Mental illness is a debilitating disease and suffers should not be expected to wait a further two years for treatment."


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