report on the 3 year review of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) (see my previous comments about this programme eg. Is mental illness curable by CBT?) thinks that the progress made has been "truly impressive". The Care Services minister emphasises that by the end of March 2012 "more than 1 million people have used the new services, recovery rates are in excess of 45% and 45,000 people have moved off benefits".
What isn't spelt out from the figures in the report is that only 60% of the people using the service complete a course of treatment. The percentage of people completing a course of treatment has decreased as the service has grown.
Rccovery is no longer defined in a report of this sort. Maybe we are just supposed to assume we all know what recovery means. To be considered cases at the start of treatment patients are required to score above 9 on the PHQ-9 and/or above 7 on the GAD-7 at assessment. They are said to have recovered if their score goes below these cut-off levels at the end of treatment. The higher patients’ initial PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scores are, the less likely they are, therefore, to recover. Recovery rates have steadily improved from 17% to over 45% over the first three years of the programme, which the report boldly states shows that services are becoming more effective. However, no data is given about whether there have been changes in baseline scores. Is the apparent increase in effectiveness due to milder cases being taken on?
Nor are the so-called economic gains controlled. How many of the 45,000 said to have moved off benefits would have done so without IAPT? Depression and anxiety get better with time without treatment. How many would have recovered without IAPT? The programme cannot make claims about effectiveness as it is not a controlled clinical trial.
This is political exploitation of psychological quackery. The programme now seems to be making a case for more funding to deal with its growing waiting list. Let's have a proper evaluation first.