Mental Health Champion Cllr Ketan Sheth – Brent Council
Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience problems with low mood or anxiety every year. Psychological therapies have been recognized as effective treatments for a range of mental health problems, which have been identified as the single largest source – about 23% – of health-related disability in the UK.
The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative was started by the Department of Health in 2008 to increase provision of effective psychological treatments for common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, to enable people to stay in work or return to work, reduce waiting times and simplify routes for referral, as well as to monitor outcomes and patient satisfaction. Before the IAPT, the NHS spent just 3% of its mental health budget on talking therapy. The IAPT initiative has tripled that figure.
Over 900,000 people access the IAPT services nationally each year and the number is expected to rise to 1.5 million by 2021. As part of this expanding service, there is likely to be an increased focus on working with people who have long-term physical health problems such as diabetes, respiratory problems, or heart conditions. It has been estimated that at least one-third of people with such illnesses also experience problems with their mental health, which further worsen their physical conditions.
In Brent, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust started the Talking Therapies Service in 2010 and has treated nearly 20,000 people with anxiety and low mood. A range of different treatments are provided including cognitive behaviour therapy and counselling. Therapies are delivered from a number of locations across Brent including GP practices, health centres and community hubs. Treatments are delivered face to face, over telephone and online, and also through workshops on different topics such as stress, sleep, mood and wellbeing. Therapies are offered in different languages with in-house staff expertise or through interpreters. The team also works with employment advisors who offer assistance with employment related concerns.
The service has low waiting times and referrals are accepted from GPs, other health professionals as well as self-referrals via the team’s website.
In addition to working with GPs, the team works closely with other physical health care teams such as diabetes, respiratory and cardiac specialties to identify people who need help with managing psychological distress in the context of their physical health as well as with different community, religious and voluntary sector across the borough.
Although IAPT services have had huge achievements of doubling the numbers of people treated in the recent years, this has not been easy, as the challenges have been about ensuring there are suitable referrals – people whose difficulties are treatable through brief focussed psychological treatments. In Brent, this has been addressed through GP education, encouraging and opening up services to self-referrals the variety of treatments offers before there is further deterioration in their mental health.
Users of the service report high levels of satisfaction with treatments offered, being involved in making choices about their care and the waiting times to be seen. Some of the things said about help received include:
“Very helpful and I learned lots of useful techniques”
“I wish I had this help sooner- it was great to get the help”
“I feel more confident to create new goals for myself”.
IAPT services are certainly a good use of NHS resources and if current challenges around increasing access to 25% as outlined in the Five Year Forward View is successful then the initiative will be good for patients’ health and wellbeing.
Cllr Ketan Sheth is Brent Council’s Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee and Lead Governor of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust