Increase in 'talking therapy' referrals made by NHS

More than one million referrals to talking therapies for depression and anxiety were made last year, NHS data shows.

Of the 1.4 million new referrals for talking therapies as part of NHS England's Increasing Access to Talking Therapies (IAPT) programme, 965,000 people began treatment, a 32,000 rise on patient numbers from the year before.

Performance statistics for 2016/17 show that waiting times are decreasing and recovery rates improving, with 88% of people waiting less than 18 weeks for treatment, and nearly nine in 10 patients less than six weeks.

As well as recovery rates improving to an average of 49% over the course of the year, 65% of patients showed "reliable improvement" as a result of treatment, NHS England said.

IAPT aims to offer talking therapies to people with common conditions including depression and anxiety.

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It is said that expanding access to this type of early intervention care will mean people's conditions are spotted and treated sooner, reducing the need for more intensive and higher-cost treatments.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England's national director for mental health, said: "Ever increasing numbers of people are getting treated by the NHS and recovering from mental ill health.

"Talking therapists in the NHS helped nearly one million people last year, and not only are more patients getting help more quickly, but their chances of recovering, thanks to NHS support, are improving significantly.

"However, we are not complacent.

"Mental health services have for too long been neglected, so even with significant extra funding of more than £1 billion over five years, raising standards of care to a consistently high level will take further years of hard work and continued investment."

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Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "I am very pleased to see that the IAPT service is reaching so many people.

"For far too long, many of those with common conditions such as depression and anxiety have struggled to get the treatment they need.

"We now need to continue improving and expanding care, so that more people with severe mental illness can access the right treatment too."