National Audit Office Failed To Audit Improving Access To Psychological Therapies Service

 

because it was ‘too busy’. In response to a freedom of information request, from Liverpool, Consultant Psychologist, Dr Mike Scott, the NAO said on November 1st 2019 that amongst its’ reasons for curtailment of its’ investigation were Brexit, the collapse of Carillion and spending increases on generic medicines.  Further the cost of its’ incomplete investigation in 2017-2018 was £74,000. But Dr Scott comments that the reasons that prompted the investigation still remain. He adds that the IAPT service has cost the taxpayer over £3 billion in the last decade with no independent audit of outcome. Clinical Commissioning Groups have simply taken at face value IAPT’s marking of its’ own homework – whither accountability? The NAO response is a yet further illustration that despite official assurances mental health is at the bottom of the agenda. Is it beyond the political parties to go beyond the rhetoric on mental health at the forthcoming general election and commit to an independent inquiry as to how IAPT client’s actually fare? 

In his submission to the NAO Dr Scott pointed out that IAPT had never been subjected to independent audit using the ‘gold standard’ methodology that has been used to assess the effectiveness of a drug. His own published research see link https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1359105318755264 has suggested that only the tip of the iceberg of IAPT client’s recover much less than the 50% claimed by the Organisation. The Journal of Health Psychology also published 3  commentary papers and a rebuttal paper by Dr Scott.  He suggests  that Clinical Commissioning Groups should in the short term refuse to fund the low intensity interventions (guided self- help, computerised cognitive behaviour therapy and educational classes)  that the majority of IAPT clients receive and for which the evidence base is particularly weak, in favour of funding the face to face psychological therapies and for the long term insist that they will be guided by an appropriate independent audit.

Dr Mike Scott

 

 

 

 

 

IAPT’s Failure To Engage

the IAPT Annual Report (2018)/2019] see link below, reveals that a third (31.2%) of new referrals drop out before treatment and approximately two thirds (61.1%) do not complete a course of treatment (using IAPT’s liberal definition of treatment as attending 2 or more session) with almost a third (29.54 %)  attending only one treatment session.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hwn9ncuuyds8qfa/IAPT%20Annual%20Report%202018-2019.pdf?dl=0

IAPT’s disengagement is illustrated by Jock’s records which revealed that at age 6 he had behaviour problems and threatened to stab himself.  By age 14 he was diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder and was short tempered. At age 19  he was diagnosed as having an anxiety state low mood drinking 10 units in a binge once or twice a fortnight  and cannabis 2-3 times a week. Despite his extensive history he was assessed by IAPT and assigned to a step 2 (low intensity) workshop, unsurprisingly he DNA’d. Two years later he is referred to them again for depression and unsurprisinly he does not respond to their opt in letter. Five years later the GP notes that he is struggling with an online CBT course has had to enlist his father to help because he is not computer literate. Then after a major negative life event he develops a depressive psychosis. Had IAPT bothered to listen this troubled soul of longstanding, the results could have been very different.

Institutional Disengagement

Engagement difficulties are built into the fabric of IAPT. Daniel consulted his GP 2 years after a major trauma and was found to have PTSD and depression and was promised a referral to IAPT. 4 weeks later he was prescribed an increase in medication and a different GP gave him IAPT’s telephone number to ring. Daniel was furious, he felt that he had explained that his mood was very up and down and that he could not be relied on to ring them. His interpretation of the organisational setup was that no one was really interested. This perception was likely to be compounded if and when he underwent a telephone assessment as had already had lots of acrimonious telephone conversations with the housing Dept and DWP since his trauma.   

It is surely time f or the Care Quality Commission and the National Audit Office to take note of the near universal disengagement of clients, voting with their feet, and institute an independent review of IAPT to determine what if any real world difference it makes. There is considerable media interest in these failings.

Dr Mike Scott

 

 

IAPT – The Need For A Product Recall

In response to David Clark’s blog ‘IAPT at 10’ on the NHS England website, I wrote: ‘If NHS England invited the manufacturer of a pharmaceutical to review the growth and successes of its’ drug over the last decade eyebrows would be raised. Yet this is precisely what has happened in asking David Clark to comment on his baby (IAPT) with whom he has an ongoing commitment and financial arrangement. In terms of publication bias his piece is off the scale.

No Independent Replication

There has never been independent replication of IAPT’s claim to 50% recovery. My own work, which is wholly independent of IAPT and was published in the Journal of Health Psychology   last year (see link below)  suggests a 10% recovery rate.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/flvxtq2jyhmn6i1/IAPT%20The%20Need%20for%20Radical%20Reform.pdf?dl=0

Questionnaires Rather Than An Independently Administered Standardised Diagnostic Interview

IAPT relies on questionnaires completed by clients with the full knowledge of the treating clinician, introducing a ‘demand’ element into the proceedings. Further there is in IAPT’s procedures no way of knowing that the questionnaire/s are tapping the disorder/s that are germane to the client. 

No Evidence of An Added Value To IAPT When Compared With Findings Before Its’ Inception

The changes in questionnaire scores observed in IAPT clients are no different to those observed on self-report measures administered to clients going through counselling before the advent of IAPT. The Mullin (2006) findings (see link below) are the appropriate counterfactual and indicate no added value to IAPT.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8a4qv5r13rotkyy/Appropriate%20Counterfactual%20Mullin%202006.pdf?dl=0

Clients present for therapy at their worst and some improvement with time would inevitably be visible on a questionnaire, IAPT has provided no evidence that clients given simply attention would not have shown the same changes to those observed.

The Jettisoning of Evaluation Guidelines

Entry into Pharmaceutical/Psychological Studies is governed by the administration of a standardised diagnostic interview. Outcome is determined by blind re-administration of the interview at the end of treatment and follow up. In line with this, an international team of Experts [Guidi et al (2018) see link below] have developed evaluation guidelines stipulating the need for blind independent assessment of psychological interventions. All IAPT generated studies have breached these guidelines.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hizta38yqm4lfh3/Methodological%20Recommendations%20for%20Trials%20of%20Psychological%20Interventions.pdf?dl=0

Countries that do not look at psychological interventions through the lens of such evaluation guidelines will be taken in by IAPT’s marketing prowess. Unfortunately many such countries have shown such gullibility in the last decade.

Failure to Engage and Treat Clients

IAPT loudly proclaims the very large number of clients that it makes contact with but this is meaningless when their trajectory is considered. Half of those referred to or referring themselves to IAPT   have less than 2 treatment sessions.  The mean number of sessions attended for those who have 2 or more sessions is 6, there is no NICE approved treatment for a psychological disorder that requires just 6 sessions.  It is scarcely credible that IAPT is providing an evidence based treatment on any scale. There is an an independent re-analysis of the IAPT data in the link below

http://therapymeetsnumbers.com/is-iapt-too-big-to-fail/

A Failure of Governance

IAPT is essentially a QUANGO dependent on NHS England, and committed to expansion but without any observance of evaluation guidelines.  NHS England has taken IAPT’s claims at face value, as a consequence Clinical Commissioning Groups focus only on operational matter, numbers, waiting times etc with no focus on clinical matters in their interactions with IAPT. The National Audit Office conducted an inquiry into IAPT but has failed to publish its’ results. There has been a gross failure of governance by public bodies and their representatives.

Only The Voice Of IAPT’s Hierarchy Is Listened To

There has been no attempt by public bodies to independently seek the views of consumers of IAPT services. However an IAPT teacher, Jason Roscoe has publicly made a blistering attack on the service, see link below

https://www.dropbox.com/s/myz53dyn8zqhj13/Has%20IAPT%20become%20a%20bit%20like%20Frankenstein.docx?dl=0

He reflects ‘the gap between what the literature advises and what management allow seems to be widening leaving the patients as the ones who are being given sub-therapeutic, watered-down CBT’ and adds ‘The result? A revolving door where patients return in quick succession for multiple episodes of treatment with a different therapist each time…..not only this IAPT also seems to be making its own workers ill with reports of compassion fatigue and burnout not uncommon’.

The views of the 90 IAPT clients I examined were almost wholly negative and indicated the need to transform IAPT see link below

https://www.dropbox.com/s/zhr1fkg71aqvno0/Transforming%20IAPT.pdf?dl=0

IAPT The Need For Product Recall

There are such serious doubts about what IAPT has delivered over the last decade, that if it were a piece of machinery the product would have been recalled. A decade ago I wrote a book on how CBT can be delivered, with fidelity to evidence based treatment protocols, [Scott (2009) Simply Effective Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, London: Routledge], there is a pressing need to review such provision. In private communication with David Clark I have acknowledged that my approach would make the assessment process more costly. However the evidence of the past decade is that it is not possible to make a real world difference to client’s lives without closely following the procedures involved in randomised controlled trials of CBT. Departure from reliable assessment, diagnosis, advice/treatment results in a failure to translate efficacious treatments to routine practice’.

Unfortunately NHS England only permits upto 1000 character comments on their invited blogs, so essentially only the 1st paragraph of this blog will likely appear.

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Have Reinvented The Wheel

if there was no IAPT the outcome for treatment of primary care clients would be just the same. In 2006 (before IAPT) Mullin et al examined the effects of counselling/therapy in more than 11,000 clients and concluded that between 5 and 6 clients out of every 10 met the criterion for recovery. These authors used the same criterion with regard to the reliable change index as used by IAPT, but used the CORE-OM self-report measure rather than the PHQ9/GAD7. If anything the Mullin et al (2006) results are slightly better than IAPT’s claimed 50% recovery.

Economists evaluate the worth of a service by comparing it with its non-existence (the appropriate counterfactual), the Mullin et al (2006) study suggests that at the very least there is no added benefit to IAPT.

Thanks to Barry McInnes for alerting me to the Mullin et al (2006) study

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8a4qv5r13rotkyy/Appropriate%20Counterfactual%20Mullin%202006.pdf?dl=0

Clinical Commissioning groups need to be made aware of this. If psychological therapists were employed by the GP practice there would be obvious accountability to the GPs. At present accountability is solely to a QUANGO with its’ own agenda. It is a scandal that the National Audit Office has not published the results of its enquiry into IAPT. Perhaps a collusion of Quangos.

Dr Mike Scott

Shambolic Mental Health Treatment for Children

An independent rigorous assessment of children’s mental health services is long overdue, wake up National Audit Office! Therapists are navigating children through a fog. Paula, not her real name, a 6 year old, had a traumatic incident at a fair and suffered separation anxiety  disorder. She had 6 treatment sessions with CAMHS, she was discharged on the basis of ‘low chance suffering from post traumatic stress’  and recalling the event with ‘no distress’.   But having seen her myself and assessing her using a standardised diagnostic interview she never did suffer from PTSD and the separation anxiety disorder has not been systematically addressed. Nevertheless the therapist calls for the whole family to attend ‘family systemic therapy’, notwithstanding that Dad does not live with them and sees mum as irresponsible for taking her to the fair. Mum sees this as just a further example of his being a ****** and is unphased by this!

The current zeitgeist is to ask for more resources for children’s mental health, putting mental health workers in school etc.  The idea is that adult mental health problems could be prevented by such actions but the evidence base on this is at present weak. But even in the unlikely event of extra resources being delivered,(as opposed to promised), if we multiply very poor treatment you still get very poor treatment.  It is crucially important to clarify the landmarks that child and adolescent therapists should use to assist children and their caregivers through the fog.

Charities often link up with formal bodies to provide services, but they are often a) desperate for funding and b) don’t have the training (or wish) to measure real world outcomes. Perhaps the best Christmas gift to children would be a truly independent and rigorous assessment of the psychological treatment they receive. This is not at all to marginalise the importance of support groups for children and adolescents with a wide range of problems.

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Haemorrhaging Clients

The latest IAPT figures for August 2018 show 60.3% of clients attending attending less than 2 treatment sessions. Under the auspices of NHS England IAPT claims to offer NICE approved therapies for treating people with depression or anxiety but the typical recommended dosage of such therapies is 10 or more sessions! Casualties are strewn in ‘no-mans land’. The National Audit Office (NAO) rather than publish the results of its’ investigation has chosen to look the other way. Yesterday the NAO was very vocal on another Government Quango, Motability but mental disability appears not to be as deserving of critique as services for those with a physical disability. If 60% of physically disabled people were not enabled to get the vehicle they require, there would rightly be an outcry, yet the majority of IAPT referrals are expected to suffer in silence. The IAPT figures can accessed using the link below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/crucmhktn3r88ud/IAPT%20Figures%20for%20August%202018.pdf?dl=0

Notwithstanding this IAPT in its’ pilot projects is expanding ‘IAPT care’ into the medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) field (see link below). Despite the concept of MUS being jettisoned from DSM-5 [American Psychiatric Association (2013)] –  in a radical departure from its’ predecessor DSM IV it cautions that it cannot be assumed that just because no physical explanation is proferred the problem must be psychological. Nevertheless IAPT in its report on integrated services comes up with an ‘MUS recovery rate’!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/f1taewasjrg4pyw/IAPT%20MUS%20Aug%202018.pdf?dl=0

Dr Mike scott

Telling It As It Is at IAPT

There is an urgent need for an independent investigation of IAPT. In an earlier blog ‘IAPT half baked’, an IAPT worker commented that it would be ‘hair raising’ for people to learn of his/her experiences. This past week I’ve come across 2 cases that exemplify this,

  1. ‘X’  was given 3 sessions of guided self-help therapy, judged ‘resistant’, treatment was judged unsuccesful on the basis of PHQ 9 and GAD7 results and it was recommended that ‘X’ was stepped up to trauma focussed therapy. But without any specification of what the trauma was or its’ sequelae.  Some months later ‘X’ began a series of 10+ sessions at step 3 for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) , but during treatment the therapist discovered ‘X’ experienced  a very distressing incident many years ago and was upset when thinking about it. This event became the treatment focus and by the end of therapy ‘X’ was allegedly less distressed by this incident. Treatment was judged successful on the basis of changes on PHQ9 and GAD7 scores, but the therapist discharge letter said ‘ may now need to be re-referred for treatment of GAD!
  2. ‘Y’ saw his/her GP immediately following a needlestick injury was given the IAPT telephone number and a telephone consultation took place within days, PHQ9 and GAD7 scales were completed and the scores were elevated and ‘y’ was scheduled for a face to face treatment 6 weeks later. If you were not distressed/anxious after a needlestick injury you really would be weird, does the GP and IAPT have to collude in this medicalisation of normal distress, is this really a proper use of resources? from a GP’s point of view I can see that it ‘off loads’ a case for a time but really!

My fear is that no one in power really wants to know what is going on at the coal face, it is not helped by the National Audit Offices failure to publish the results of its investigation into IAPT. One can only speculate that the champion’s of IAPT, NHS England have had a gentle word with the Office.  The effect is that a political correctness rules expressing concern about mental health, stigma and the need for more resources, but without getting close to the people effected and really listening to what is going on.

 

 

Dr Mike Scott

Deluded Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Mr Matt Hancock has just announced on BBC Radio 4 that ‘our (mental health) services are better than almost any other services in the world’.  But how can he possibly know this – there has never been an independent assessment of the Government funded Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service (IAPT), the latter have only ever marked their own homework. The Secretary of State might ask the National Audit Office why it has never published the results of its’ investigation into IAPT. My own study published in the Journal of Health Psychology in February of this year

https://www.dropbox.com/s/flvxtq2jyhmn6i1/IAPT%20The%20Need%20for%20Radical%20Reform.pdf?dl=0

suggests the recovery rate in Adult Services is just 15% far short of the Government target and IAPT’s claim of a 50% recovery.

 

Dr Mike Scott

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

IAPT – A Crumbling Edifice and The Law

A friend has recently got a post as a Hi-Intensity therapist in IAPT, he is restricted to providing just 6 sessions, but can go up to 10 for PTSD and OCD.  He is expected to make 24 contacts a week, each session to be no more than 45 minutes. If he doesn’t reach the 50% recovery rate for 6 consecutive months he will have to attend a meeting.  Perhaps I should book him in for a reliable assessment in 6 months time, conducted not by telephone but with hospitality. I wouldn’t consider stipulating the number of sessions in advance. But I would be mindful not to pathologise his likely stress reaction – ‘saving normal’.

I might advise that he consider whether his employer has breached a duty of care in that it is known that 6 sessions is not an evidence based dose of treatment for any psychological disorder and it is reasonably forseeable, that a therapist charged with delivering this is likely to be stressed. It would then be a matter for the Health and Safety Executive and Personal Injury Lawyers. But there are also issues of informed consent, in that clients are not informed that they are to receive a sub-therapeutic dose of treatment – they could become litigants. Clinical Commissioning Groups have done absolutely nothing to ensure that clients receive a therapeutic dose of treatment and are open to a charge of medical negligence.

Will IAPT reform itself before it is too late? There is a glimmer of hope, in that I did not meet with open hostility recently when I suggested that it needs reconfiguring to ensure reliable assessment.  But the economic argument for IAPT will be in tatters after a new paper is likely published in the coming months, which will show what the National Audit Office has signally failed to make public – a matter for the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Dr Mike Scott