1.4 million people referred to NHS mental health therapy in the past year

Over one million referrals to NHS talking therapies for depression and anxiety were made last year according to new, official data.

Of the 1.4 million new referrals for talking therapies as part of NHS England’s Increasing Access to Talking Therapies (IAPT) programme, 965,000 people began treatment, a 32,000 rise on patient numbers from the year before.

As well as increasing numbers of people getting treatment, performance statistics for 2016/17 show that waiting times are decreasing and recovery rates improving. The number of people recovering from their condition has increased on the previous 12 months, with over 50 per cent of patients making a recovery in every month of this year.

IAPT is a key element of NHS England’s improvements to mental health services, offering talking therapies to people with common conditions including depression and anxiety. Expanding access to this type of early intervention care will mean people’s conditions are spotted and treated sooner, reducing the need for more intensive, and higher cost, treatments.

The new findings come after the New York Times described the IAPT programme as “the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses”.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Director for Mental Health, said: “Ever increasing numbers of people are getting treated by the NHS and recovering from mental ill health. Talking therapists in the NHS helped nearly one million people last year, and not only are more patients getting help more quickly, but their chances of recovering, thanks to NHS support, are improving significantly.

“However, we are not complacent. Mental health services have for too long been neglected, so even with significant extra funding of more than £1bn over five years, raising standards of care to a consistently high level will take further years of hard work and continued investment.”

The analysis of mental health services, compiled by NHS Digital, shows that:

  • 567,000 people finished a course of NHS talking therapy in 2016/17: 30,000 more patients than in the year before.
  • Waiting times are improving, with 88 per cent of people waiting less than 18 weeks for treatment, and nearly nine in ten patients less than six weeks.
  • As well as recovery rates improving to an average of 49 per cent over the course of the year, 65 per cent of patients showed ‘reliable improvement’ as a result of treatment.