Mental health services are unable to cope with demand for psychological therapies, according to an investigation by the We Need to Talk coalition. The coalition, which includes the BPC, says that huge variations in referral rates and waiting times around the country are unacceptable and are making people more unwell. It is calling on the next government to make access to talking therapies an immediate priority after the election.
An analysis by the coalition of the latest Health and Social Care Information Centre data from CCGs shows enormous variation in both referrals and waiting times across England. In the last quarter of 2013/14, several CCGs report fewer than 100 new referrals for talking treatments, while others report up to 5,400 in the same period.
The We Need to Talk coalition surveyed over 2000 people who have tried to access therapy in the last two years. It reveals that one in ten (9.6 per cent) are waiting over a year between referral and assessment, while four in ten (41 per cent) wait more than three months. Once assessed, most people start therapy within three months, yet a third (32 per cent) wait longer.
While waiting, two thirds (67 per cent) feel they have become more mentally unwell. Four in ten (40 per cent) have harmed themselves, two thirds (67 per cent) have experienced suicidal thoughts and one in six (16 per cent) attempted suicide.
The BPC conducted a joint survey with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) of over 650 NHS therapists, the results of which suggest that despite investment in IAPT, the situation in many areas is getting worse as other psychotherapy services are being cut back. More than half (57 per cent) of therapists report an increase in waiting times over the last year and two thirds (62 per cent) report shorter courses of treatment. Almost four out of five (77 per cent) say they are seeing people with more complex needs coming through their doors.
For further details of the coalition's manifesto for better talking therapies for all, please click here.
Gary Fereday, the BPC's Chief Executive, says: "We Need To Talk’s investigation shows that if you happen to be among the millions of people in this country who experience mental illness and need urgent and appropriate psychological therapy, it is highly likely that you will not receive appropriate or adequate therapy under current provision. Moreover, it demonstrates that you have a high chance of waiting for an unacceptably long time for treatment and even – tragically – that your health may deteriorate further.
Although investment in IAPT has changed people’s lives, the state of current provision is unacceptable and would be considered scandalous if we were talking about physical health services. This is why the British Psychoanalytic Council joins with We Need To Talk partners in urgently calling for the NHS to provide the full range of evidence based psychological therapies to anyone who needs them within 28 days of asking for help."