Service standards

NICE standards

The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme aims to implement National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance for people with common mental health problems. NICE recommends a range of psychological therapies to treat people with depression and anxiety disorders and bring them to recovery. It also recommends these therapies are used to provide a system of stepped care, based on two principles:

  1. treatment should always have the best chance of delivering positive outcomes placing as little burden as possible on the patient,
  2. a system of scheduled review should be put in place to detect and act on non-improvement to enable stepping up to more intensive treatments, stepping down where a less intensive treatment becomes appropriate and stepping out when an alternative treatment or no treatment becomes appropriate.

It is important that people have a say in what kind of treatment they receive. This helps ensure the best health outcome for them. Clinicians should explain which treatment they are recommending and why they think it is suitable for the person they are working with. Services should aim to offer people choice in appointment time, gender of therapist and type of therapy (within those recommended by NICE for their problem).

National standards

  • Waiting times: 75% of people referred to IAPT services should start treatment within 6 weeks of referral, and 95% should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral.

Access standard

IAPT services should be providing timely access to treatment for people with anxiety disorders and depression. The expected access rates (percentage of prevalence) is:

  March 2020 March 2021
Access rate as a proportion of prevalence 22.0% 25.0%

Recovery standard

  • Recovery: At least 50% of people who complete treatment should recover.

Guidance on how data should be recorded in the IAPT data set to support national monitoring and answers to FAQs is provided by NHS Digital.

NHS Digital produces regular progress reports on the use of IAPT services. These are available on its website.