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£43m boost for mental-health services in the Northwest

30 Oct 2009

People suffering from depression and anxiety in the Northwest are set to benefit from improved access to psychological therapies with the announcement of a £43 million programme that will produce an extra 500 specialists over the next three years.

More therapists for people suffering from depression
More therapists for people suffering from depression

The ‘Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) scheme is part of the government’s 2005 election pledge to provide improved access to psychological therapies for people who require the help of mental health services.

Two types of new IAPT workers based in Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and some Mental Health Trusts will be employed and educated to provide new IAPT services – ‘low intensity’ and ‘high intensity’ therapists. Two-hundred IAPT students from across the Northwest started their training programmes this semester.

The University of Manchester has won a joint bid to provide postgraduate education and training for the new IAPT low-intensity therapists in the Northwest over the next three years.

“Depression and anxiety disorders are very common and serious conditions that have a major impact on how people are able to function,” said Professor John Playle, in the University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, who led the bid.

“Six million people in the UK suffer from these conditions, roughly half with depression as their primary problem and half with an anxiety disorder, though these conditions are often combined.

“The negative effects of these conditions are substantial in terms of the health and well-being of individuals and their families, as well as the wider economic costs of lost employment and output, and the costs to the NHS.”

Government guidelines advise that people with depression and anxiety should be offered an evidence-based psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), either in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, anti-depressant medication.

“These psychological therapies have been shown to be as effective as anti-depressants in the short term and more effective at preventing relapse,” said Professor Playle.

“However, only about a third of people with diagnosable depression and less than a quarter of those with anxiety disorders currently receive appropriate treatment. In many places around the UK access to these psychological therapies is either unavailable or there are very long waiting lists for people to receive them.”

Based on its well-established research and educational expertise in the area of primary care mental health, Manchester’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work was successful in leading a collaborative bid with the University of Central Lancashire and Liverpool John Moores University to provide the postgraduate education and training programme for more than 200 new IAPT ‘low intensity’ therapists in the Northwest from 2008.

These new mental health workers will be trained to assess and support patients with common mental health problems – mainly anxiety and depression – in the self-management of their recovery, including helping them to return to work or other meaningful activity.

They will provide information and support for evidence-based, low-intensity psychological treatments, mainly based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but with a specific emphasis on patient self-management, including guided self-help, telephone or email support and computerised CBT.

Low-intensity therapists will also provide information on common drug treatments and support patients in decisions which optimise their use of such treatments. The role of low-intensity therapists and the alternative methods for delivering therapy, many of which have been developed and tested by researchers from The University of Manchester, mean that these new workers will be able to provide rapid access to help and carry a high patient caseload, with each therapist, once fully trained, treating between 150 and 200 patients each year.

Professor Playle added: “This is an exciting opportunity to work collaboratively with the NHS in the Northwest to improve access to mental-health services for many more people who are currently either not treated at all or face long delays for treatment.

“Long waiting times or lack of availability of psychological services for people with common mental health problems has been a real problem for many years. The IAPT initiative aims to change this.

“We are delighted to have won the bid, with our partners, for the new IAPT low-intensity therapist education programme. It is further endorsement of The University of Manchester’s well-established track record of innovative research and education in mental health.”

For further information email: or call 0161 306 0270.


Notes for editors

In 2007 a World Health Organization study compared depression with angina, asthma, diabetes and arthritis, concluding that the impact of depression on daily functioning was 50% more serious than the impact of these other major conditions.

The most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicates that there are six million people in the UK with these conditions.

The IAPT programme builds on the success of pilot IAPT demonstration sites run in Doncaster and Newham. 

Further information on the National IAPT programme is available at:

Further information on IAPT developments in the Northwest is available at:



Media enquiries to:

Aeron Haworth
Media Officer
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
The University of Manchester

T: 0161 275 8383
M: 07717 881 563