BBC Chooses To Ignore Talking Therapies 10% Recovery Rate

this morning BBC Radio 4 focussed on the problems caused by the Improving Access To Psychological Therapies (IAPT) long waiting lists (half more than 28 days)  but reiterated IAPT’s claim of a 50% recovery rate. But IAPT has only ever marked its’ own homework on recovery rates. I spent hours explaining to Radio 4 reporters that the true recovery rate is more likely 10% as detailed in my paper published in the Journal of Health Psychology last year, but they totally ignored this – shortening waiting time for something, that is most likely to be ineffective approaches pointlessness:

billions of £s have been spent on IAPT over the last decade all without any publicly funded independent assessment of outcome, this would never have been permitted in evaluating a drug. NHS England claimed IAPT has exceeded expectations , but can cite no independent evidence. NHS England have failed the public in terms of accountability. There are so many vested interests in IAPT that the great majority of patients are likely to continue to be short changed. The yardstick has to be the proportion of people who get back to their old selves post-treatment, my study of 90 IAPT clients found that only the tip of the iceberg recover. NHS England need to commit to a publicly funded independent assessment of IAPT using real world outcome measures such as loss of diagnostic status for at least 8 weeks.

There is a troubling alliance of powerholders BBC, IAPT, BABCP and BPS that is ignoring the real needs of those with mental health problems.


Dr Mike Scott


Only The Powerholders Believe In IAPT

politicians of all political parties and the media believe in IAPT, that should make one immediately suspicious! A decade on there is no evidence of:

  • economic saving – see this link either in terms of a) a reduction in work absenteeism b) number of people helped into work or c) reduction in benefit payments
  • psychological recovery – there is no evidence that IAPT clients lose their diagnostic status with treatment, much less that any changes are enduring. When IAPT marks its’ own homework it claims a 50% recovery rate (but without claiming how long this lasts!) but independent assessment suggests only the tip of the iceberg recover

Worryingly the iceberg may be melting with the high stress levels amongst IAPT frontline staff. Its much vaunted ‘low threshold’ for access means that therapists are ‘treating’ clients for problems in living e.g a stressed client forced to commute a long distance for financial reasons  complaining of insomnia and tiredness but being treated for depression because of her PHQ9 result! The therapist is stressed by her recovery target, that is unlikely to be met with this client, the client is stressed by the hoops she has had to go through to accommodate appointments in her busy schedule and all to no avail. 

No politician wants to admit the wasting of a £1 billion on IAPT in the last decade. The media and politicians are desperate for a good news story, claiming the success of IAPT and the moral highground of being anti stigma and for mental health gives a warm glow in the winter of our discontent.

But if treatment services began with the hospitality that traditionally marks the Christmas season, then actually they would not go far wrong, it’s not that complicated. 

Dr Mike Scott