Declining IAPT – Clients Reject The Service

Rejection of the Improving Access to Psychological Treatments (IAPT) service continues to be the norm. Yet it has been funded to the tune of £4 billion without any independent demonstration that it has better recovery rates than its’ predecessors.

Nearly a decade ago, Richards and Borglin examined the pathway of over 7000 Improving access to Psychological Treatments (IAPT) clients – of those referred, 27.3% did not materialise for an assessment. Of those assessed 26.8% did not go further. Of those attending treatment 29.5% completed only one session. Of those initially referred  the rate of non completion of treatment was 62.5%. [Were ‘completion’ was defined by IAPT as attending 2 or more sessions]. This pattern of engagement is identical to that found in my 2018 study    there are no signs of improvement, see the Table from my paper ‘IAPT – The Need For Radical Reform’

IAPT’s engagement and retention of clients (n=90).


1. 23.6% of clients either did not initiate contact with IAPT (an opt-in arrangement) or IAPT were unable to contact them to arrange an assessment
2. 13.3% attended only an initial assessment
3. The mean number of treatment sessions attended was 5.5 with a median of 4.0 sessions, with missing data on one client

4. 39.3% attended 2 or less treatment sessions 5. 57.3% attended less than 6 treatment sessions 6. 23.6% attended 6–8 treatment sessions
7. 80.9% attended 8 treatment sessions or less 8. 4.5% attended 20 more treatment sessions

If such rates of ‘decline’ of treatment had been present in the randomised controlled trials  of the efficacy of CBT, then the latter would have been summarily dismissed.  There would have been no NICE guidance advocating CBT for depression and the anxiety disorders. In the IAPT service the average number sessions attended by those who engage in treatment is 6, this would be regarded as a sub-therapeutic dose of treatment in any of the rcts for CBT. No trial of CBT has ever been conducted with the average dosage delivered in IAPT. It strains all credibility to believe IAPT’s claim that it has achieved the 50% recovery rate that is common place in the rcts of CBT.

IAPT ignores the haemorrhaging and deftly switches the public focus to waiting times and numbers seen. The advantage of such key indicators is that it can always be claimed that with more funding waiting times will reduce and numbers seen increase and so the Titanic continues at speed. The crucial question that is avoided is ‘do waiting times matter in a context in which most decline to engage or complete treatment?’.

An unholy alliance between NHS England and IAPT has meant that the latter’s definition of the key indicators of success has been allowed to hold sway. The public are the victims of a failed duty of care.


Dr Mike Scott