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Therapy could 'cut benefits bill'

26th June 2006

The UK incapacity benefit bill could be cut by spending more on psychotherapy, a group of economists believe.

The team from the London School of Economics say expanding therapy services would even pay for itself.

The Depression Report, says a course of psychotherapy costs £750 - the same as a month's incapacity benefit and lost tax. The Department of Health will be testing the calculations by running two pilot schemes.

Depression and anxiety are reported to account for 40 per cent of people who are claming incapacity benefit and unable to work.

Lord Layard, chairman of the Mental Health Policy Group of the LSE's Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), which produced the report, says that many of these people could return to good health and employment if psychological therapy courses were extended across the country.

There would be great social benefits from treating people with mental health problems; he said at least half of people with depression or clinical anxiety can be cured completely with less than 16 meetings with a therapist.

According to the CEP, psychological therapy should be made available to all people suffering from depression, chronic anxiety and schizophrenia.

This, it says, is what the guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) prescribe, but are not currently being implemented.

The report also says current provision means people can wait nine months to receive treatment and there should be a proper psychological therapy service in every part of the country by 2013.

This could be done at no net cost, and require 10,000 therapists and 250 local services, with 40 new services opened each year till that date.

The report been welcomed by mental health organisations Mind, Rethink, the Mental Health Foundation and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

The group also called on the government to require Primary Care Trusts to implement existing NICE guidance and publish waiting times for psychological therapies.

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