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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Psychiatrists say promises for psychological therapies in Northern Ireland must not be watered down

Embargoed until 07 June 2010

The publication of a A Strategy for the Development of Psychological Therapy Services is welcome, but the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland has warned that without proper funding it cannot be fully implemented, resulting in people with mental health problems here continuing to miss out on therapies that can turn their lives around.

When the strategy was issued for consultation in early 2009, the Health Minister committed £7 million of recurring funding to develop a spectrum of psychological therapies for all age groups and for varying levels of need. That has now been cut to £4.4 million and it is unclear whether this money is ring fenced and how it will be targeted.

Dr Maria O'Kane, Policy Officer for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland, said: "This is an excellent document, but we have to see it translated into services, and £4.4 million is not enough money to do that.

"The strategy recommends that in Northern Ireland 340 additional practitioners are required to deliver psychological therapies to meet the standards recommended by NICE (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence). In addition, those staff who are trained must be given adequate time to deliver treatment.

"It is very difficult for people in Northern Ireland to access psychological treatment. This then has resulted in a heavy reliance on medication. As psychiatrists, we want to offer patients therapeutic alternatives that are proven to be effective at helping people to live full lives, whatever their mental health problem.

"The bill for antidepressant drugs in Northern Ireland last year was £18 million. That’s more than twice the per capita spend on antidepressant medication in England. The Government in England has recognised the strong economic case for investing £170 million per year in psychological therapies which enables adults with mental health problems to return to, or stay in, work."

In Northern Ireland, the total cost to employers of mental ill health is £745 million per year. Around 40% of Incapacity Benefit claims in Northern Ireland relate to mental health problems.

Dr O'Kane said: "We recognise there are constraints on the health budget, but we believe this cut is not only a false economy, but deprives people of the treatments that should be available."


For further information, please contact:
Kathy Oxtoby or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.

Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 0203 701 2538

 

References:

A Strategy for the Development of Psychological Therapy Services in Northern Ireland was launched by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey on 7 June 2010

 

Note to editors:

A Strategy for the Development of Psychological Therapy Services in Northern Ireland was launched by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey on 7 June 2010

 

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