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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

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