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End of the 'prozac nation' - More counselling, more therapy, less medication to treat depression

Published:
Friday 12 May 2006
Reference number:
2006/0177

People suffering from depression will be able to have better access to counselling and talking therapies under a major new programme announced today by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

At the moment many people with mild to moderate depression find it difficult to access talking therapies, with services patchily spread across the country. This is despite clinical evidence showing that better access to therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help cure depression and reduce time off work due to ill-health. Patients also prefer to receive talking therapies rather than medication.

The programme, announced today by Patricia Hewitt in a speech to the National Mental Health Partnership Conference, consists of two demonstration sites in Doncaster and Newham, which will be linked to a regional network of local improvement programmes. The two demonstration sites will bring together key programmes in the NHS, voluntary sector and local employers to test various models that can be implemented nationally.

Announcing the launch of the programme today, Miss Hewitt said:

 

"Millions of people suffer from mild to moderate mental health problems, and treating them takes up about a third of GPs' time. Too many people are prescribed medication as a quick fix solution, but talking therapies work equally well and patients prefer to receive them.

"We know that people in work have better health than those out of work and the Choosing Health White Paper made clear that work matters - it can improve your mental and physical health, reduce health inequalities and improve life chances for people and their families.

"I hope that these pilot sites will provide real, tangible evidence of the effectiveness of investing in talking therapies. They will help break the cycle of deprivation, where poor health leads to unemployment and wasted lives as people fail to reach their full potential."

Rethink chief executive Cliff Prior said:

"This could be the beginning of a dramatic advance in mental health. We know from our members that there is a huge demand for talking therapies. We also know that there is already a strong evidence base to support these types of interventions. We hope that the pilot sites will report quickly and positively so that this initiative can become a full national programme available to everyone who needs it." 

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

"Mind has long been campaigning for a wider choice of therapies, including talking therapies, to be readily available on the NHS for all who need them.  We hope that these pilot schemes will be a first step towards making this a reality, and look forward to the scheme's extension to cover the whole population.

"We are delighted to finally see delivery of pilot schemes for these urgently needed alternative treatments to medication, now advocated by several NICE guidelines as frontline treatments.  Giving people the chance to learn coping strategies and self-management techniques can help reduce the risk of mental health problems returning later on."

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health chief executive Angela Greatley said:

"People with depression and anxiety have for too long been offered little more than medication.  For a significant minority, this is not enough to help them to recover. As a result, many lose their jobs, drop out of education or see their relationships break down.  Waiting times for psychological therapies are long, despite the mass of evidence about their benefits for many people.  Today's announcement should be the beginning of a new approach that ensures timely access to effective treatment and practical support, with real choices and care close to home."

Notes to editor

1. Improving access to talking therapies has the potential to save the economy millions of pounds by helping people with mild to moderate depression to get back into employment and off incapacity benefit. About one in three of the 1.3 million people claiming long-term incapacity benefit in the UK have a mental health problem, mostly mild to moderate depression.

2. The pilots will provide real evidence of the benefits that can be gained from increasing access to psychological therapies, both to the individual and to the local economy. They have been given £3.7 million funding over two years from the Department of Health.

The two sites have been chosen because they serve very different demographics with different health needs, and they offer different treatment models such as community-based, voluntary sector-led, or employer-led.

Local people will benefits from the pilots by having:

· Access to coping strategies and support as an alternative to taking sick leave from work due to depression

· Better support in the work place from Occupational Health

· Retaining employment, even where the individual may suffer from stress, anxiety or depression

· Enabling people on benefits to return to work more quickly

· More choice over their care and treatment

3. Media enquiries only contact Victoria MacCallum on 020 7210 5724. Public enquiries contact 020 7210 4850.


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