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Wednesday 20th June 2018

All in the mind?

29th June 2009

Jane Elliot writes for the BBC about the government's aim to increase accessibility to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and reduce waiting times.


After new mother Julie Clarke had given birth to her daughter she found it difficult to sleep and stayed awake at night worrying.

Other people told her that she had post-natal depression and needed to talk to someone about the problem.

Her doctor gave her sleeping tablets and arranged for her to see a counsellor. She received CBT in three in-office sessions, which were followed up with a weekly telephone session over three months.

The sessions, and the adoption of a night-time routine suggested by her counsellor, have helped to "ease" Julie's insomnia.

According to the former Health Secretary Alan Johnson, by 2010 the government intends to spend £170 million annually on increasing access to CBT. This will allow 900,000 more patients to be treated.

It is thought that around six million people "of working age" are depressed or anxious in England. The result of these psychological disorders is the loss of 91 million work days and an estimated cost of £12 billion annually.

At present CBT treatments have a waiting list of eighteen months. The government wants to decrease the time patients spend waiting for therapy to a fortnight.

Baljeet Ruprah-Shah, head of mental health and wellbeing services for Ealing Primary Care Trust (where Julie received her counselling), said they had increased the number of CBT counsellors from four to seven.

She said they aimed to make the service "as holistic as possible" and offer patients help in other areas of their lives, such as weight control and to give up smoking.

She added that the trust were trying to increase accessibility for minority groups by the translation of leaflets into different languages and broadcasting a Punjabi radio programme.

The trust is also sending out a "battle bus" around the borough to promote CBT and provide a therapist for people to talk to.

Joe Wade, from the marketing agency Don't Panic who are assisting the trust with the bus, said: "We will carefully identify areas and tell people about the service. If they are stressed we can bring them back at their own convenience or they can go and have introductory sessions on the bus." 

Patients in Ealing can also refer themselves for counselling without having to tell their GP, unless they are "high risk".

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