HI magazine uncovers six month waits for NHS counselling

"CBT is very important and useful," he said. "We would not be without it. But it is not some kind of panacea and it is damaging to the confidence and health of patients and therapy itself if someone suggests that it is."

In February the Government announced that it would invest £400m over the next four years to complete the roll-out of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme and ensure that every adult has access to psychological therapies for anxiety disorders and depression. Since the programme was launched in 2008 more than 600,000 people with mild to moderate depression have entered treatment and the Department reports that alternatives to CBT are becoming more widely available. The current standard for IAPT services is 28 days from referral to first treatment session.

Employer investment

Since the economic recession an increasing number of employers have invested in counselling services for staff. The latest data from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development shows that access to counselling is now the most widely provided employee benefit, offered by nearly half of private sector employers, compared with just over a third in 2009. Over a third of employers noted an increase in reported mental health problems among employees in 2010, with those that had made or were planning to make redundancies more likely to report an increase.

Dr Seamus Dagens, a consultant occupational health physician at PMI Health Group, a firm which advises employers on health and wellbeing, said that many employers recognised that prompt access to treatment for depression could "dramatically" shorten the course of the illness.

"This in turn facilitates a more timely return to normal every day activities and work,” he said. “In such cases this is obviously advantageous for both employee and employer."

Eugene Farrell, business manager at AXA ICAS, which provides counselling and other talking therapies to organisations, said that employers could secure a four to one return on investment by screening for mental health problems and providing early access to support.

Look out for the full report of the research in the August edition of Health Insurance, out next week.


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