Page last updated at 22:59 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 23:59 UK

Talking therapies access widens

Depressed woman
Access to psychological therapies on the NHS is patchy

A multi-million pound strategy to increase access to "talking therapies" in England should cover 75% of the country by March, ministers say.

In 2007, the government earmarked £173m to boost the number of cognitive behavioural therapists on the NHS.

It is hoped the scheme will pay for itself as people return to work and stop needing benefits.

But charities warned the programme may become vulnerable to budget cuts as PCTs tighten their belts.

The announcement comes as Mind and Rethink launch a campaign to destigmatise mental health problems.

Sports stars, including olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes and cricketer Marcus Trescothick, are encouraging people to speak out about conditions such as depression to raise awareness of how common such illnesses are and that people often suffer in silence.

Last year Trescothick "came clean" about the depression that had plagued him for years.

"It was a huge and extremely difficult step to actually admit that I was suffering from what is commonly known as mental illness," he said.

Extra therapists

It has been estimated that as many as six million working age adults suffer from depression or anxiety at any one time, resulting in 91 million working days being lost every year.

Marcus Trescothick
Marcus Trescothick, the second highest scorer in England's triumphant 2005 Ashes win, retired from international cricket in 2008 due to depression
For years he covered up his illness and in a tour in India in 2006 claimed to have a 'mystery virus' while actually suffering with feelings of fear, despair and panic
He finally admitted what had been happening and candidly wrote about his depression in his memoir Coming Back To Me
He has said "depression doesn't care who it attacks; if it wants you, you cannot beat it off with a CV or bank balance"

The "Improving Access to Psychological Therapies" (IAPT) programme aims to treat 900,000 extra people by 2010/11, with half of them moving to recovery and 25,000 fewer on sick pay and benefits.

By March next year, 115 trusts will have the programme in place, up from 63 currently, the Department of Health said.

Care services minister Phil Hope said: "The talking therapy services that are already up and running have been very successful, with 73,000 people entering treatment and 1,500 more therapists being employed under the scheme".

Funding for the IAPT programme is currently ring-fenced but after 2010/11 responsibility for funding will shift to primary care trusts.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, agreed the roll out of the programme was on track.

"However, there's still a lot more work to be done and any changes in funding could seriously jeopardise the programme's future," she said.

"The NHS is under financial pressure and there being no ring-fence around IAPT funding could leave mental health budgets vulnerable to being raided by local health trusts, to plug the gaps elsewhere."

She added that people in areas yet to receive funding for the programme were still stuck with long waiting lists and that delays were apparent for treatments outside the short course of cognitive behaviour therapy offered by the programme.

Andy Bell, spokesman for the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, said the IAPT was a "hugely important initiative".

But he added its roll out "should not be at the expense of other types of treatment services".

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