The London Development Centre's improving access to psychological therapies support programme is designed to equip primary care trusts with the tools and techniques needed to drive forward the development of psychological therapy services.

The programme aims to build on local leadership skills, encourage innovation in commissioning and service delivery, and give participants time and space to think about what services would be most effective in their localities.

The programme was designed by London improving access to psychological therapies programme manager Louise Howell and London Development Centre director of well-being Brendan McLoughlin in response to the high volume of pathfinder site applications received in June 2007. Of the 31 London PCTs, 24 requested pathfinder funding, with 17 PCTs submitting full proposals.

Interest in the programme continues to grow, with a total of 18 PCTs enrolled on the support programme and a number involved in London-based projects.The support programme draws heavily from lessons collected from each of the demonstration sites, in addition to capturing new ways of working and learning from the pathfinder site.

The programme is split into three delivery areas. The central delivery arm involves PCTs participating in interactive, learning-based training sessions. PCTs are asked to take the learning and insights they gain through the programme back to their local areas.

Open dialogue

In response to the feedback received from PCTs so far, Ms Howell says: 'Encouraging programme participants to maintain an open dialogue with their commissioning directors and clinicians remains a central focal point for this programme.

'However restricted participants feel in terms of current resources, it is important that they are given time to construct sound clinical and business proposals for the changes they wish to make. Pushing these issues forward with key decision-makers in their organisations is vital.'

The London Development Centre wants to make sure PCTs are in a strong position to provide evidence-based psychological therapy services that result in demonstrable clinical outcomes for service users, while promoting positive outcomes in health, well-being and employment. The challenge in a diverse city such as London is to make sure those services are well aligned with the needs and wishes of local communities.

The programme fits with the centre's pre-implementation plan, devised shortly after the funding announcement in October 2007. The plan incorporates the main tasks for PCTs wishing to prepare themselves for future funding and highlights the logistical challenges for the centre in delivering a large-scale implementation project across a vast, densely populated area.

The programme is supported by a wide range of London Development Centre networks, including the bi-monthly improving access to psychological therapies network and the commissioners network. There will be an evaluation of the programme in March 2008, followed by a pan-Londonevent to mark the beginning of the programme's April roll-out in London.

Feedback from PCTs on commissioning, workforce and delivery challenges will be used to inform the London Development Centre's three-year improving access to psychological therapies strategy. The strategy will be available for formal consultation from January.

Enrolment on the centre's support programme is now closed. To register your interest for future programmes, please contact or call 0786 7797 635