Does NHS Talking Therapies Alter The Course of Mental Health Symptoms?

After 15 years of the Service and £10 billion spent on it, we still do not know! If ever there was a matter for Health Ministers, the Office of Budget Responsibility and the Nation al Audit Office, this is it. To date NHS Talking Therapies have only ever taken their own snapshots of clients, discharging them as soon as their scores fall below ‘casenness’ on a psychometric test. But the natural course of anxiety and depression is a waxing and waning. A photo at any one point is next to meaningless, particularly if it is taken by a party with a vested interest in declaring recovery.

In a 2 year naturalistic study, of depressed, anxious and depressed plus anxious patients in the Netherlands,  Penninx et al (2011)  the criteria of recovery was at least 3 months free of symptoms as assessed by a diagnostic interview. This metric ensured that they were looking at how long it took to what could be taken as a real-world change. [A far cry NHS Talking Therapies studies]. With half of depressed patients recovering within 6 months. Half the anxious group recovered by 16 months and half the combined group by 24 months. Of those who remitted a quarter relapsed. Approximately half the population had psychological treatment and they fared no better than those who didn’t. There is no evidence that NHS Talking Therapies clients fare any better than those in the Netherlands or than those attending the Citizens Advice Bureaux.

In my capacity as an Expert Witness to the Court I reviewed 90 cases Scott (2018), some of whom had NHS Talking Therapies treatment before a personal injury and others who were treated afterwards, whichever was the case only the tip of the iceberg recovered. I called for a a publicly funded independent assessment of the Service, 5 years on, nothing, just a rebranding of IAPT earlier this year. 


Dr Mike Scott