older psychiatrySome 1 in 10 people with mental ill health have to wait for more than a year to access talking therapies and 54% wait for more than 3 months, according to a new report.

The report by the We Need to Talk coalition, We Still Need to Talk, also found some people are paying for private therapy to get the help they need: 11% said that they had faced costs for private treatment because the therapy they needed was not available on the NHS.

In addition, the choice of treatment on offer was found to be limited even though cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the most commonly prescribed talking treatment, doesn’t work for everyone. The coalition found that 58% of the 1,600 people surveyed who have tried to access talking therapies such as counselling and CBT on the NHS in England over the past two years weren’t offered a choice in the type of therapy they received.

Elsewhere, it was found that more than 30% of people being treated for schizophrenia have not been offered any form of psychological therapy. Of those that did get offered it, 1 in 5 waited for more than a year to get psychological therapies and half had no choice of the kind of therapy they received.

Since 2007, the Government’s increased investment in the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme has helped millions of people to access psychological therapies on the NHS who otherwise wouldn’t have had this support. But delays in accessing support and a lack of choice is having a devastating effect on people’s lives and recovery.

The We Need To Talk coalition is calling for the NHS in England to offer a full range of evidence-based psychological therapies to all who need them within 28 days of requesting a referral. The coalition is raising these concerns as the IAPT team has now moved to NHS England, and is operating on reduced capacity and budget.

Increased demand

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “More people than ever before are getting access to talking therapies thanks to our £450 million investment in the improving access to psychological therapies programme.

“Due to its initial success, demand has increased and this has led to increased waiting times in some parts of the country.

“We want people to get access to treatment quickly. We have asked NHS England - the body which oversees the NHS – to introduce for the first time new waiting time and access standards for mental health services from 2015.”

Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, said: “Since our last We need to talk report, we’ve seen money poured into the IAPT programme with some encouraging improvements in waiting times. However, it is far from acceptable that in some parts of the country people are still waiting over a year to access treatment. This must urgently be addressed if the Government’s commitment to parity between physical and mental health care is to be realised.

“The Government is committed to improving access to talking treatments but our report shows there is still a long way to go. That’s why we’re urging the Government and NHS England to take heed of this new report and make sure that people with mental health problems are getting the right treatment when they need it.”

Dr David Murphy, chair of the Professional Practice Board at the British Psychological Society, said: “Considerable progress is still required as access to psychological therapies is still very limited, especially for particular groups such as those from ethnic minorities, older people, those with physical disabilities, and also people with severe mental health problems.

“Those people who do access services are also waiting too long before they receive psychological therapies. Moreover, even after waiting many weeks or months, our own research has shown that often therapy is cut well short of the amount recommended in NICE guidelines because of arbitrary local limits. This is of great concern and illustrates how far we still need to go before treatment of mental health problems and physical health problems have equal priority. It would be front page news if a healthcare organization started limiting prescriptions of antibiotics to half the recommended dose in order to manage costs but this is equivalent to what seems to be happening in many psychological therapies services.”