Clients Cast Adrift By Individualised Treatment Without An Anchor

Psychological therapists in the UK and beyond almost universally believe that they are equipped to personalise treatment and jealously guard their autonomy. Services feed the quest for autonomy by taking no steps to ensure clinicians make reliable diagnosis. This, despite the fact that the NICE approved psychological treatments are almost all diagnosis specific. As therapists are promoted the system perpetuates itself.

Not too long ago it was believed that physical and mental disorders arose from an imbalance of the four humours – blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. A person with disordered blood would obviously improve with bloodletting. Years of experience of people recovering after thoughtful personalised bloodletting were confirmation of efficacy.

 

Evidence based psychological treatment (EBT) still requires a clinical judgment as to whether a particular person could be matched to the population of a particular randomized controlled trial. But EBT’s prevent the unbridled use of clinical judgement .

Moving towards reliable assessment will need nothing short of a revolution because it runs counter to the current expert consensus. This consensus does not accept that current provision simply does not work, a 9.2% recovery rate, when assessed independently Scott (2018) https://www.dropbox.com/s/flvxtq2jyhmn6i1/IAPT%20The%20Need%20for%20Radical%20Reform.pdf?dl=0 and calls for replication studies have fallen on deaf ears amongst the power holders and the media [ Marks (2018) https://www.dropbox.com/s/uw47oh03k9uvpo0/Marks%20IAPT.pdf?dl=0 There is an understandable concern about an increased cost of assessment but this will be offset by a treatment that might actually work. There is a massive vested interest in the status quo that extends to courses and politicians. The latter want to be seen to be on the side of mental health, happy to be seen opening mental health facilities or advocating more mental health personnel in schools but they run shy of considering independent assessment of outcome, it is of no short term political advantage. Politicians have let the National Audit Office get away with not publishing the results of its investigation into Improving Access to Psychological Therapies  ( IAPT) .

Scott, M.J (2018) IAPT – The Need for Radical Reform, Journal of Health Psychology, 23, 1136-1147.

Marks, D.F (2018) IAPT Under the Microscope, Journal of Health Psychology, 23, 1131-1135.

 

Dr Mike Scott

Psychiatrists and Social Workers Acting With Impunity

A client of mine LC, see news item link , lost access to her 3 children for 5 months because a psychiatrist declared she had an emotional unstable personality disorder. I protested to the Court that this was wholly unfounded, having treated LC succesfully myself with CBT for depression. The appointed Expert Witness agreed with me that LC did not have an emotionally unstable personality disorder. The social workers refused to distribute my report to the agencies involved and were insistent that she attend a non-evidenced based treatment targetted at personality disorder. LC was mandated to attend regular meetings with social workers and other agencies. After legal action against Cumbria County Council they have apologised simply on the basis that there were no grounds for insisting that access had to be supervised.  The link to the News item is below:

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/Cumbria-County-Council-sorry-after-mums-five-month-hell-0b215a18-055c-43e3-8b03-69ff77b5a05e-ds

But there is absolutely nothing to prevent this psychiatrist or any other, from making a diagnosis without careful reference to diagnostic criteria, routinely psychiatrists use criteria in a cavalier manner. There is no systematic enquiry about each of the symptoms that constitute a diagnostic set and no use of published thresholds to determine whether a symptom is present at a clinically significant level. This is no academic matter, the abject misery caused to my client LC for those 5 months was absolutely horrendous. To my knowledge there have been no sanctions against the social workers, they simply took a view of LC, taking their lead from the psychiatrist and refused to consider information that might contradict their conclusions. They showed no understanding of the concept of a personality disorder nor of what constituted evidence-based treatment. These professionals have been left to carry on and wreak havoc wherever, doubtless in good faith.

These matters should be a serious concern for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Association of Social Workers but I have no confidence that these matters will be addressed because they are endemic within those professions.

Legal proceedings are still continuing for human Rights Violations by Cumbria County Council in respect of 2 of the children.

 

Dr Mike Scott

‘What We Need Is Good Quality Talking Therapies’

Says Will Self talking on Radio 4 this morning, a must listen on BBC i-player. He was  distressed at his friend who had been sectioned, his visit to her on a locked ward resembled still, ‘One Who  Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. When she questioned the appropriateness and mechanism of action of the drugs prescribed for her bipolar disorder the psychiatrist became defensive. After  discharge no therapy was on offer.

 

 

He is absolutely right we do need good quality talking therapies but we have not got them, rather we have a 10% recovery rate for those undergoing treatment with IAPT http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1359105318755264.  I very much doubt that IAPT or anyone has an evidence based psychological treatment for a person with bipolar disorder and it would be disingenuous to pretend we have. Nevertheless IAPT has trespassed into providing treatment for medically unexplained symptoms, which is an unfortunate precedent for claiming more than we can deliver.

Will Self makes the excellent point that we need small communities to support people like his friend. But it is very difficult to create them for people who are isolated, charities, churches etc do what they can but it is a tough road to make a real world difference

 

Dr Mike Scott

Supervision Of Most IAPT Workers Is Not Supervision – Monumental Waste

Alexandra Painter was for 2 years a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, in her doctoral thesis *, she reviews her experience and that of other PWP’s.  She notes that in the so called ‘Case Management Supervision’ that PWP’s are subjected to, a core component of supervision, the opportunity to reflect on practice and talk about how you feel about cases is routinely absent. Alexandra calculates that approximately 2.5 minutes is allowed to discuss each case! It seems that the PWPs, who are the most numerous of IAPT workers, are at the ‘front line’, most commonly they have been health care assistants in the past,   unlike the high intensity therapist’s in the rear with often clinical or counselling psychology backgrounds. In this war against mental ill health it is more likely that the troops at the front will bear the brunt.

Leaving the troops fearful of going over the top and disobeying commands from on high. The PWP’s plight resembles resembles the Charge of the Life Brigade, in that the powers that be refuse to accept that they are not on solid ground intent on reaching their target at all costs. There are no evidence based techniques, only evidence based treatments and all the so called EBT’s in low intensity treatment fail to meet criteria for evidence based treatment [ Scott (2017) Towards a Mental Health System that Works London Routledge].

  • At least two randomised controlled trials, on a clearly specified population, with independent assessment by a blind rater using a standardised interview
  • At least one of the rcts conducted by researchers independent of the developers of the treatment
  • Replication in routine practice using non-expert clinicians

How long will it be before there is a national outcry about such waste. Unfortunately the National Audit Office is still undecided about whether to publish its’ investigation into IAPT. People including myself and BACP made a submission to the NAO fully expecting the latter’s findings would be made public, if they and I knew that this was not necessarily the case, we would have wondered whether it was worth the effort! At the moment they appear to be countenancing a letter to NHS England, inspection of their website shows the latter’s wholesale support for and funding of IAPT! The NAO, to date, seems no better than Carillion’s Auditors!

Dr Mike Scott

* Painter, A. (2018) Processing people! The purpose and pitfalls of case
management supervision provided for psychological wellbeing practitioners,
working within Improving Access to Psychological Therapies
(IAPT) Services: A thematic analysis. DCounsPsych, University of
theWest of England. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/33351

Stressed Because You Are Asked To Do What Is Not Possible?

‘I am not IAPT’s employee of the month’, ‘For all to view, I am nowhere near the top of the league table for recovery rates’ – just two of the voices of stressed therapists that I have heard in recent months. Unfortunately challenging the Organisational zeitgeist that generates such demoralisation is likely to be seen as a further sign of ‘inadequacy’.

But the American Psychological Association, Clinical Psychology Division, have refined the criteria for an evidence based treatment in such a way, that it could add ‘grist to the mill’ of those who wish to take issue with what they are being asked to do. The new criteria contain the added requirement that there must be evidence of effectiveness in at least one study, in a nonresearch setting using non-academic therapists and also evidence of effectiveness on functional impairment and not just symptom improvement. [The new requirement is based on the Tolin et al (2015) paper Empirically supported treatment: recommendations for a new model. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 22, 317-338]. With this added criteria many of the CBT treatments for health anxiety, psychosis and long term physical health problems and computerised cbt would not clear the raised bar for evidence based treatment. Even an accepted treatment such as exposure and response prevention for OCD has just one routine practice study and this was without a control condition, Tolin still strongly recommended the treatment but suggested that there did need to be further evidence.

Pencil in ‘and CBT’ next to ‘antibiotics’ in the poster below and display in Staff and ? Waiting Rooms for the coming Winter

 

Often times a client has considerable comorbidity, I have just seen a person with ptsd, depression, binge eating disorder, panic disorder with mild agoraphobic avoidance and ?body dysmorphic disorder following an rta 4 years ago. No randomised controlled trial has ever been conducted on a population with such extensive comorbidity. There has to be proper acknowledgement of the challenges such a client presents for a therapist, it is insufficient to label a client simply as ‘complex’ because this can easily be seen by the powers that be as a ‘cop out’, the only true defence is a comprehensive reliable assessment.

The bottom line may be to challenge, where you can, whether there is evidence of effectiveness for this specific type of client in the routine context in which you are working – a reality check.

 

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Performance Investigation – National Audit Office Request

‘The National Audit Office is currently carrying out an investigation into the performance data of IAPT services. The investigation is focussing on waiting times, but also refers to the reported 50% recovery rates and can accept information about the collection and measurement of data across IAPT outcomes.  

This is a genuine opportunity for us to challenge the data on which mental health service targets are being set.

Many of you have important experience of what is happening in IAPT services that is crucial for the NAO in building an accurate picture of what is going on.

Please submit your evidence to Jenny George Jenny.George@nao.gsi.gov.uk and David Rarity David.Raraty@nao.gsi.gov.uk  who will be writing the report during August. It’s a tight deadline so please submit what you can as soon as possible.

The NAO website is HERE and below is the information provided about the inquiry.

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies performance data

The ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) programme increases access to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. In October 2014, the Department of Health and NHS England jointly published Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020. This set new standards for the time people should wait for mental health treatment and the care they should be able to access. In the case of IAPT services, the standards are that 75% of people referred should be treated within six weeks, and 95% within 18 weeks of referral, and that 50% of those who complete treatment will recover. NHS Digital publishes monthly statistics that report performance against these standards. This investigation will establish the facts around how the national statistics are prepared.

This is a really significant opportunity for us to share our experiences of what is going wrong in performance management of services. Please, take the time to contribute to the report’. 

 Thanks to Steve Flatt for alerting me to the above from the ‘Surviving Work’ website
Dr Mike Scott

 

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Evidence Based CBT Joins the ‘Endangered Species’ List

‘The good news is we have successfully amputated your right leg, the bad news is we operated on the wrong leg’.  The moral is that there can be no evidence based CBT treatment without an evidence based assessment (EBA). But EBA’s are increasingly absent in order to ease the research burden, ‘just rely on a psychometric test’, and reduce ‘treatment’ costs.

Emergency medicine operates on the 7 P’s, ‘Proper Pre-planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance’. Is it seriously proper-pre-planning to operate as IAPT do, with a  typically 15-20 minute telephone conversation, conducted by the most junior member of staff, to be then placed on waiting list of upto 6 months for a treatment of indeterminate appropriateness? The reliability of this ‘pre-planning’ has never been assessed by anyone independent of IAPT. But this has not stopped Clinical Commissioning Groups often ring fencing IAPT monies at the expense of other mental health service providers.   The CCG’s need to be reminded that they ought to be working in an evidence based framework were the results of randomised controlled trials with independent assessment of outcomes hold sway (the top of the pyramid below). 60% of IAPT clients receive low intensity treatment, this is way down at the bottom of the evidence pyramid below, with a high potential for bias, reflected in powerful marketing.

It is time that CCG’s told IAPT that their pre-planning is simply unacceptable, there has to be an evidence based assessment. It is time the National Audit Office asked why are we continuing to fund a Service that has not been independently evaluated using ‘gold standard’, diagnostic assessment procedure. But most of all it is time to listen to those subjected to an inhospitable and unhelpful service. MP’s have to insist they are listened to.

Dr Mike Scott