NHS psychotherapy services hit by austerity

In sad but unsurprising news, a report by the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the British Psychoanalytic Council shows that psychotherapy, and in particular long-term psychotherapy, is getting more and more difficult to access on the NHS. They surveyed 2000 psychotherapists.

Of those surveyed who worked in the NHS or voluntary sector:

  • 57% of practitioners said client waiting times have increased over the last year
  • 52% report fewer psychotherapy services being commissioned in the last year
  • 77% report an increase in the number of complex cases they are expected to deal with

The survey also found an increase in people having to access the private sector, often because they found that NHS waiting lists were too long, they were unable to access the type of therapy they needed or the therapy offered was too short.

Paying for your own therapy can be very expensive. If you’re paying, say, £45 a session for weekly therapy, the costs will quickly mount up, and a lot of people simply can’t afford that. Also the private sector is harder to regulate. A counsellor or psychotherapist with the NHS, the voluntary sector or a university is unlikely to have been hired unless they belong to an accredited register such as the BACP or UKCP. However, as I’ve repeatedly detailed on this blog, there are a lot of cowboys among those who act as self-employed businesses. Neither “counsellor” nor “psychotherapist” are protected titles, and most of the public simply don’t know what is or is not an accredited register.

Janet Weisz, chair of UKCP, said:

“People who are experiencing psychological distress and would benefit from therapy are being letdown by the patchy and increasingly limited provision of therapy services in the UK.

“This survey also shows a worrying development for the psychotherapy profession in the UK. Highly trained and experienced therapists are leaving the NHS for private practice because services are being closed and they feel that longer-term work with clients is no longer valued.

“While the NHS has successfully introduced short term therapies which work with many mental health conditions, the needs of clients requiring deeper and longer term psychotherapy are increasingly being ignored. In consequence, morale among our NHS members is falling and access to services is deteriorating.

“The therapists whose views are represented by this survey are a significant asset to our public health service. The loss to the NHS of their skills, commitment and dedication is a tragedy.”

Julian Lousada, chair of BPC, said:

“This continuing deterioration of NHS psychotherapy provision is unacceptable. Psychological therapies for people experiencing enduring problems, co-morbid conditions, and medically unexplained symptoms all require investment.

“Mental distress is increasingly represented as a brief interruption of everyday life. For some this is the case, but for many the distress is enduring and has a huge impact on those they encounter and those who care for them.

“People experiencing these conditions need stable and supported staff who can contain and respond to the turmoil of their lives. The loss of experienced consultant staff would not be tolerated in any other area of NHS activity and, without urgent action, we are in real danger of losing the range of interventions that a comprehensive mental health service requires.”

4 thoughts on “NHS psychotherapy services hit by austerity

  1. “While the NHS has successfully introduced short term therapies which work with many mental health conditions, the needs of clients requiring deeper and longer term psychotherapy are increasingly being ignored.” 100%. It is awful. The cuts are just disgusting really. Treat the easier ones, with cheaper short term therapy, ignore the ones who are more complex and have bigger needs. It’s bites the tax-payer in the end however.

  2. You say, “There are a lot of cowboys among those who act as self-employed businesses.”

    I was wondering if you have any statistics as to how many people are self-employed counsellors/psychotherapists and of these how many belong to a register. How many in each group are cowboys would you estimate? How many is a lot, in your view?

  3. Pingback: Counselling and Therapy | Leeds Wellbeing Web

  4. Interesting letter from a whole load of therapy people about the danger of the proposed dodgy job centre therapy and the effects of austerity on mental health generally. It seems to have gone pretty viral with thousands of shares.


    There is an article about it here, also.


    the Indie has also picked it up:


    The parties all sound very shifty about it, and the BACP, UKCP and BPS refused to sign the letter apparently.

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