It’s great that politicians, pundits and the press are willing to speak up for investment in mental health services, but that does not mean that there is consensus and happiness amongst the professionals delivering NHS care. Far from it, writes David Pink, chief executive of the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
NICE has examined types of therapy as if they were types of antidepressant pill, and favours one type of therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT) over all others. Tens of thousands of people could benefit from therapy, and in true socialist monopolist fashion, the NHS (and the Lib Dem conference) is being encouraged to support the national provision of mass-production CBT factories. Improving access to CBT is a good thing – but do we want to improve access at the expense of patient choice?
Lord Layard and former Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow have argued that mental health services are always treated as the poor relations of ‘mainstream’ NHS care. Today Liberal Democrats are being asked to vote to defend mental health services – we can all agree with that. The motion then goes on to argue that protecting ‘IAPT’ (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services is a priority, but what about the other primary and community mental health services, many of which were already at risk before the current crisis? Protecting IAPT, but treating all other mental health services as poor relations, is exactly the divide and rule that we need to avoid.
While the Government claims to be expanding access to therapy, local psychotherapy services are being closed down, especially in London. There never was very good access to therapy on the NHS, but now the IAPT juggernaut creates a new threat. Local counselling and specialist psychotherapy services for those in greatest need are being swept away by a mono-culture of CBT.
IAPT stands for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. Surely we want that to mean improved waiting times AND choice of therapy.
David Pink is chief executive of the UK Council for Psychotherapy. When working at the Department of Health he was in charge of the setting up of NICE.