Thousands more therapists as doubts cast on anti-depressants

Govt to fund 3,600 more talking therapists
Govt to fund 3,600 more talking therapists

More than 3,500 therapists will be made available to help people with depression and anxiety after it emerged anti-depressant medication does not benefit many sufferers.

The government has announced a £170 million investment in talking therapies, which will be used to train 3,600 psychological therapists.

Echoing guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice), ministers believe talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapies are as effective as medication in the short-term and more effective over the long term.

The announcement coincides with a review of clinical trials, published in the Lancet medical journal, which found anti-depressants are little more effective than placebo bills for many sufferers.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said the additional 3,600 therapists would help secure access for anyone that needs it, with the eventual target that all GP practices are able to access psychological therapies.

Mr Johnson said: "The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme has already captured the imagination of primary care trusts up and down the country and is transforming the lives of thousands of people with depression and anxiety disorders in the areas that have been involved so far.

"This document describes how that transformation can begin to be delivered in every strategic health authority area over the next few years."

Health minister Ivan Lewis explained one in six people suffer from mental health problems at any one time, with GPs spending a third of their time dealing with common problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.

"For many people, prescribing medication is a successful treatment but psychological therapies have proved to be as effective as drugs in tackling these common mental health problems and are often more effective in the longer term," Mr Lewis said.

"Today's guidance is another step towards giving people with mental health problems a real choice of treatment, helping to reduce dependence on medication."

The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for greater access to talking therapies and said today's Lancet review reinforced its importance.

Health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "A genuine choice of treatments for depression must be a core health service priority, not a neglected afterthought.

"Patients should have an individual entitlement to safe and dignified treatment in mental health hospitals and other facilities within 13 weeks."

The extra therapists announced today will treat patients with both mild and severe conditions, using either high or low intensity therapy.

The government expects they will enable 900,000 more people to be tested for depression and anxiety, of whom 450,000 will be completely cured.


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