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

The Cost of IAPT Is At Least Five Times Greater Than Claimed

The British Medical Journal has just published the following letter of mine online with the above title:

‘Six years ago a News headline in the BMJ proclaimed ‘Increasing access to psychological therapies will cost NHS nothing’ BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4250, citing a report of Lord Layard  of the Mental Health Policy Group of the Centre for Economic Performance http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/research/mentalhealth/default.asp, that claimed ‘after an average of 10 sessions half the people with anxiety conditions will recover, most of them permanently, and half the patients with depression will recover’ .  Far from being substantiated an independent assessment by Scott (2018), http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1359105318755264, using a standardised diagnostic interview, suggest a 10% recovery rate. This represents a five-fold increase of the cost of treatment per cured person.

The progenitors of IAPT, Clark and Layard in their book Thrive (2015) claim that the cost of treatment in IAPT is £650 per person, for people having attended 2 or more treatment sessions.  This leaves out of account the 40% of its clients who attend only one treatment session [IAPT (2018)] and the costs of the initial assessments which totalled £92 million in 2016-2017, with total costs of £367,219,192 in that period.  This means that the true cost of IAPT is at least 5 times greater than alleged, all without any government funded independent audit. Further average session attendance for those ‘treated’ in IAPT is 6.6 [IAPT (2018)] not the average of 10 sessions that Lord Layard deemed necessary, so that the average patient in fact receives a sub-therapeutic  dose of treatment.

In 2012 Lord Layard claimed ‘the average improvement in physical symptoms is so great that the resulting savings on NHS physical care outweigh the cost of the psychological therapy’. This claim remains unproven and what limited evidence is available points in the opposite direction. How do Clinical Commissioning Groups justify paying such inflated sums? how can they be sure another agency could not achieve the same for less? how do they know that GPs simply tracking clients with depression and anxiety disorders would not achieve the same outcomes? NHS England should surely advise CCG’s to ask searching questions and organise a long overdue government funded independent audit of IAPT focusing on real world outcomes, such as loss of diagnostic status..

BMJ (2012) ;344:e4250 Increasing access to psychological therapies will cost NHS nothing, says report

Clark, D.M and Layard, R (2015) Thrive: The Power of Evidence-Based Psychological Therapies London: Penguin.

IAPT (2018) Psychological Therapies: Annual report on the use of IAPT services England, 2016-17 Data Tables. NHS Digital: Community and Mental Health Team.

Mental  Health Policy Group of the Centre for Economic Performance (2012) How mental health loses out in the NHS.   http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/research/mentalhealth/default.asp.

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

 

Dr Mike Scott