• Employment advisers will be integrated into the government’s flagship therapy scheme
  • NHS England adviser said DWP and DH are planning to introduce more employment specialists to IAPT services next year
  • DWP is “finalising” plans

Employment advisers will be integrated into the government’s flagship talking therapy service as part of new plans to improve recovery rates for mental health patients.

NHS England clinical adviser David Clark told HSJ the national body is working with the Department for Work and Pensions to introduce more employment specialists into the improving access to psychological therapies service from next year.

Informal group meeting

Therapy talking counselling

Talking therapies had £400m invested in them between 2011 and 2015

The plans form part of a DWP green paper published at the end of last month, though no timescale has been given as to when the advisers will be in place.

While providers have been successful hitting the new waiting time targets for mental health services, they have struggled nationally to achieve the goal of half of IAPT patients making a recovery.

The plan to bring employment specialists into IAPT is intended to boost recovery rates in deprived areas. An NHS Digital report published last month revealed that while 55 per cent of patients from the least deprived areas recover, only 35 per cent of those in the most deprived areas do so.

Professor Clark said: “If you are in a socially deprived area it is very important you have a very good IAPT service, but if you do you have a very good chance of recovering.

“We don’t have a lot of employment advisers in IAPT at the moment. However, the DWP has launched a new initiative aimed at potentially changing that and will be rolled out next year, really increasing the number of employment advisers in IAPT.”

IAPT is the government’s flagship therapy programme, which had £400m put into it between 2011 and 2015, and has an extra £308m pledged in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health implementation plan.

More than doubling the number of employment advisers in talking therapies forms part of the DWP’s Work, Health and Disability green paper, which pledges £70m over the next four years to test ways to support people with disabilities and long term conditions to get and stay in work.

A DWP spokesman said helping people with mental health problems get back into work was a “top priority” for the department.

He added: “We are finalising plans to increase the number of employment advisers and will be rolling out a new training course in a drive to improve the quality of employment advice offered to patients.”

The NHS Digital annual review of IAPT found that in 2015-16 81.3 per cent of people waited less than six weeks and 96.2 per cent waited less than 18 weeks to enter treatment; and 46.3 per cent of patients recovered.

The service has been unable to hit the 50 per cent recovery rate target, with the most recent figures from July showing the national recovery rate was 48.5 per cent.

Centre for Mental Health deputy chief executive Andy Bell welcomed employment support for IAPT patients but said the main concern was how the scheme is implemented.

He added: “This has good potential as a way forward. Obviously there’s controversy around this because of the way people have experienced the DWP programmes and the whole approach with the work capability assessments. But it’s really important that where such support is provided it is done on a voluntary basis.”