talking therapiesMore people than ever are receiving psychological therapies and April saw the highest recovery rates so far in the history of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, end-of-year data has shown.

The number of people referred for treatment from January to March (Q4) increased by about 17,000 to 367,689 from 350,505 in Q3. The 15% access target was exceeded, hitting a new high of 16.8%.

In addition, the number of people recovering hit an average of 48.2% in Q4, up from 45.9% in Q3. In April, 21,117 people moved to recovery, meaning a recovery rate for people finishing a course of treatment of 49% - the highest recovery rate seen so far, missing the standard by just 1%. 

Waiting times continue to surpass the standard that 75% of people should start treatment within six weeks: in April, 84.6% of people started treatment within 6 weeks of referral, and 97.1% within 18 weeks. 

Currently NHS England’s commitment is that IAPT services should be: providing access to treatment for at least 15% of people with anxiety disorders and depression; at least 50% of people who complete treatment should recover and 75% of people should start treatment in 6 weeks of referral, and 95% in 18 weeks.

Dr Tim Kendall, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, said: “We’re really pleased that a growing number of people are getting access to psychological treatment and that they are doing so in a timely way. This is great news. While we know there are many challenges with providing speedy and appropriate care in this area we are working to improve care.

“Workforce is one of our biggest challenges but the recent Mental Health Implementation Plan has committed to training 4,500 extra therapists by 2021 and developing new integrated psychological therapies services alongside physical healthcare.”

The Mental Health Forward View and Implementation Plan commits that by 2020/21 there will be increased access to psychological therapies so at least 25% - 1.5 million people – with common mental health conditions will access services each year. 

The majority of new services will be integrated with physical healthcare. As part of this expansion, 3,000 new mental health therapists will be co-located in primary care, as set out in the General Practice Forward View. 

Investment over two years will support better integrating physical and mental health services and expand psychological therapies in up to a third of all clinical commissioning groups through building ‘Integrated Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)’ services – co-located in and integrated with physical health services – to improve health for people with mental and physical health problems or persistent and distressing unexplained medical symptoms. 

Funding of £17.8 million in 2016/17 and up to £54 million in 2017/18 will go directly to training new staff and delivering new ‘early implementer’ integrated services.

In parallel, the NHS will maintain and develop quality in services including meeting the three existing access and recovery standards set out above, including continuing to support areas with low recovery rates to improve.