“We Need to Talk Wales”: New Coalition launches report calling for improved access to psychological therapies

A new coalition of mental health charities,professional organisations and service providers in Wales says that patients hereneed better access to psychological therapies. While recognising and welcomingrecent Welsh Government investment in this area, the ‘We Need to Talk (Wales)’coalition is concerned that too many people are still waiting too long to accesspsychological therapies and do not have enough choice over the type, timing andlocation of this form of treatment.

Today (October 4th, 2016), the Coalitionwill publish a report which promotes four key priorities in improving access topsychological therapies for patients.  The report, which will be launched by the Minister for Social Servicesand Health, Rebecca Evans AM, says:

·        People of allages should have access to psychological therapies within 28 days in bothprimary and secondary care

·        People shouldbe able to make an informed choice about accessing a full range of evidencebased psychological therapies

·        The views ofusers should be at the heart of the system – they should be valued, respectedand recorded to improve services

·        The long termimpact of psychological therapies on people’s lives should be measured by WelshGovernment

The report draws on evidence from across the UK andbeyond which shows that improved choice and access to evidence basedpsychological therapies delivers better outcomes for individuals as well assavings to the public purse in health and social security. The Improving Accessto Psychological Therapies programme in England (IAPT) has provided over amillion people with access to psychological therapies on the NHS, with researchshowing that there have been reductions to individual healthcare usage and useof long-term repeat prescriptions.

The cost of mental health problems in Wales isestimated at £7.2bn per year and the National Prescribing Indicators 2015-16(The Annual Primary Care Prescribing Report) show an average increase of 8.11%of anti-depressant prescriptions over the years 2013/14 to 2014/15, with a risein all health boards across Wales. Whilst valuing the role medication can playin mental health treatment, the Coalition believes that there should be agreater focus on, and access to, psychological therapies.

The We Need to Talk (Wales) coalition has welcomedthe investment made by Welsh Government, and the development of the Wales PsychologicalTherapies Plan for Adult Mental Health, which aims to improve access topsychological therapies. The Together for Mental Health draft delivery plan for2016-19 reiterates a 28 day target for interventions in primary care andrequires health boards to report on the 26 week referral to treatment target inspecialist secondary mental health services for all patients. However, the WeNeed to Talk (Wales) coalition believes that people in need of primary andsecondary mental health services should be able to access psychologicaltherapies within 28 days of a referral request as early intervention improvesoutcomes. 

Ahead of the launch, the Minister for SocialServices and Health, Rebeca Evans AM said:

“Two years ago, Welsh Government provided a significantfunding boost for health boards in order to improve access to psychologicaltherapies. We understand that these interventions can reduce the risks ofrelapse in people with psychosis or with depression. Our aim is to ensurepatients have real choices about all available treatment options and to seethese interventions accessible across Wales.”

The Chair of the We Need to Talk (Wales) Coalition,Hafal Chief Executive Alun Thomas, said: “We represent patients and professionals across Wales whoknow from experience that talking therapies can be hugely beneficial in therecovery process. There is also widespread evidence that psychological therapiesresult in significant saving to the public sector in healthcare, tax gains andwelfare with benefits felt throughout the NHS. Currently, 50% of people have towait more than three months after assessment to receive their first therapysession.

“As charities, professional organisations and service providers, we havecome together in order promote parity of access for patients, regardless ofwhether they are in primary or secondary care.”