NHS champions new 'cure' for depression
HUNDREDS of NHS staff have been trained to help patients with mental health problems as part of efforts to reduce reliance on drug treatments in Scotland.
A conference in Edinburgh today will hear that 500 workers had been given the skills to provide psychological therapies to patients with conditions such as depression in the past two years.
More will continue to be trained to help provide an alternative to anti-depressants for patients who might benefit, the conference at Heriot-Watt University will be told.
Experts have complained that GPs have no alternative to anti- depressants, due to a lack of psychological treatments and long waits on the NHS in Scotland.
Geraldine Bienkowski, leader for psychological therapies at NHS Education for Scotland (NES), said the NHS staff trained up included nurses, occupational therapists and psychiatrists.
In total, 500 staff have been trained to provide psychological therapies.
Of these staff, 150 have been trained in the treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), for people with moderate to severe mental health problems. This involves a day's training every week for two years.
The rest of the group received five or six teaching days, as well as ongoing supervision and training, to provide services such as group therapy and self-help support schemes.
Ms Bienkowski said: "We have also trained up more trainers – not just therapists but people who can train other people as therapists. So it will have a cascade effect as more people are trained."
The Scottish Government set a target to reduce the annual rate of increase in anti-depressant prescribing to zero by 2009-10. Figures later this year will reveal whether it has met this target.
The most recent statistics, for December, showed a total of 4.01 million anti-depressant items were prescribed in Scotland during 2008-9 – an increase of 178,650 from the previous financial year.
However, in recent years the annual rate of increase has been falling. A new waiting-time target for mental health treatment will be set this summer.
Ms Bienkowski said: "What we are looking to do is provide psychological therapies which are available quickly enough to be an alternative to anti-depressant prescribing.
"That's the key thing. You can get anti-depressants very quickly, and it is about reducing waiting times to provide treatment that's going to be speedy enough to be an alternative to anti-depressant prescribing."
Public health minister Shona Robison welcomed the progress made in training staff.
"More people with depression and other mental health problems in Scotland are receiving treatment than ever before. We are committed to ensuring people receive appropriate treatment, and that means we have to increase access to therapies."
Ilena Day, chief executive of Depression Alliance Scotland, welcomed the increased staff providing psychological therapies. But she said that in some parts of the country, patients were still having trouble accessing such services.
"This cannot lose its place on the agenda. It needs to be a rolling programme that is continued."
'Support group helped me cope with my son'
LORRAINE MacEwan is among those who have benefited from staff trained to provide psychological therapies and support. She was invited to join a parenting course called Incredible Years to help with the problems her son, Harris, was experiencing.
The four-year-old has experienced delayed social and emotional development. Mrs MacEwan, 39, from Blackburn, West Lothian, said: "
He was late with talking and walking."
A health visitor referred the family to help them have a better understanding of what Harris was experiencing. "The course is about having a positive mental attitude," Mrs MacEwan said.
"We go in, we chat, there are other parents there. Not every parent is there for the same reason. I feel personally that this course should be offered on a broader scale. Everyone who is a parent should have the chance to do it. I've gained a lot from it."
HOW CBT WORKS
COGNITIVE behavioural therapy (CBT) helps patients to change how they think and what they do by talking through their problems.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, CBT can help to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.
This makes it easier to see how they are connected and how they affect the patient.
These changes can then help people to feel better, say experts.
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