• Flagship talking therapy service hits target for first time since its launch in 2008
  • Improving access to psychological therapies achieved a 50.1 per cent recovery rate in January 2017, just above the 50 per cent target
  • IAPT is a key element of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health

The government’s flagship talking therapy service has achieved a 50 per cent recovery rate for the first time since its launch nearly a decade ago.

The latest data from NHS Digital shows that 50.1 per cent of the 42,700 people who finished a course of improving access for psychological therapies in January moved to recovery.

Simon Wessely

Simon Wessely

Simon Wessely said the achievement was ‘unique in the world’

This is the first time since the service launched in 2008 it has achieved a national 50 per cent recovery rate, but many areas are still struggling to hit the target.

IAPT is the national talking therapies programme offering support to people with common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

When the service was first launched the goal of a 50 per cent recovery rate was set, but it became the first official mental health access and waiting time standard in 2015-16.

NHS England’s national mental health director Claire Murdoch said the sector still had much more work to do to maintain and drive forward further improvements.

She added: ”It is tremendous news that more than 20,000 people entered recovery following treatment in January, meaning we are now hitting the target of 50 per cent.

”Huge strides forward have been made, but there is much more work to do to drive further improvements to ensure the right care is available across the country at the right time.”

Royal College of Psychiatrists president Professor Sir Simon Wessely said: “We should take a moment to reflect on the sheer scale of this achievement unique in the world.”

However, he urged caution when comparing recovery rates for different treatments because IAPT data is not based on “controlled trial evidence”.

He said: “While not wishing to be the boring boffin, that means that the IAPT data includes natural recovery, and excludes people who fail to engage or complete less than two sessions.

“We need to think about what happens to these people and those with more complex disorders.”

Mental health charity Mind’s policy and campaigns manager Geoff Heyes also welcomed the achievement, but said recovery rates varied considerably depending on where people live.

He said: “While it’s positive to see recovery rates improving, there still remains a great deal of variation across the country. In some areas, recovery rates are as low as 17 per cent, while the best performing area is achieving 86 per cent recovery rates. This local variation is unacceptable – where you live should not affect the quality of support you receive.”

The data also revealed:

  • nearly 21,400 of the 42,700 people who completed IAPT in January moved to recovery;
  • 124 clinical commissioning groups managed to hit the 50 per cent recovery target; and
  • 88 out of 165 providers achieved a recovery rate of 50 per cent or higher.

Nationally 90.2 per cent of people waited less than six weeks and 98.7 per cent of people waited less than 18 weeks to enter treatment, hitting the 75 per cent and 95 per cent targets respectively.

IAPT 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.

NHS England has set the target of increasing access to psychological therapies to 1.5m people with common mental health problems each year by 2020-21. Plans also include 3,000 new mental health therapists who will be co-located in primary care.