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Long wait for promised psychological therapies in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 13:46 18 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:36 06 July 2010

The government's promised improvements in mental health therapies will not be fully in place across Norfolk until 2011- more than a year after neighbouring Yarmouth and Waveney.

The government's promised improvements in mental health therapies will not be fully in place across Norfolk until 2011- more than a year after neighbouring Yarmouth and Waveney.

In February last year the government promised £170m in extra cash across the country for psychological therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). It can be used for depression and anxiety or organic mental health problems such as personality disorders and schizophrenia.

The first Norfolk therapists and wellbeing co-ordinators were recruited last month. But NHS Norfolk says there will not be a “full service” until 2011, partly because of the need to train staff. But in Yarmouth and Waveney, which is run by a different health trust, the service will be ready this October.

The issue is due to be looked at by Norfolk's health scrutiny committee tomorrow because of past concerns about shortages of psychological therapies, and in particular a lack of help for children with mental health problems.

The report to the meeting, by Euan Williamson, NHS Norfolk's commissioning project manager for mental health, says: “IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) will be delivered over the course of two years with a full service envisaged by 2011. There will be an incremental build up of resource over these two years…Due to the lack of trained CBT therapists nationally, the predominance will be trainee therapists.”

In Yarmouth and Waveney, the full service is due to start in October, with an invitation to tender due out next month. A report from Chris Humphris, interim head of joint commissioning, said: “The pilot scheme means that we will be able to start the full IAPT service in October 2009.” He says the full range of staff will be taken on “from April 2010 at the latest.”

Patient representative Patrick Thompson, who has suffered from mental health problems himself in the past, said: “This is one area where we are not getting an equitable service across the county. We need to have psychological therapies - why are we not getting them? If people in one part of Norfolk, ie Yarmouth, can get them, why cannot NHS Norfolk do it?”

In all, 96 therapists will be taken on in the NHS Norfolk area, and 26 in Yarmouth and Waveney. A linked programme of computerised CBT, where patients can treat themselves for anxiety, depression or phobias through a computer programme, is also due to be rolled out alongside the psychological therapies. People will be able to refer themselves for the treatments or go through their GP.

There are 17,000 people in Norfolk recognised as having a mental health problem, but it is believed that the true figure may be closer to 85,000.

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