This year we have seen the announcement of significant investment in mental health and the commitment to expand the provision of talking therapies in the NHS to provide more help across all areas of mental health. The priority for the next Government should be to ensure the public can get timely access to the psychological therapies they need rather than the one that is available.
It is time that ‘Parity of Esteem’ becomes reality and not just a slogan. BACP, the BPC and UKCP are calling on the next Government to make three commitments to improve access to mental health care and choice:
We call for a national strategy to improve choice, availability and access to counselling and psychotherapy for all. Mental health care must be based on the needs of each individual, regardless of age, gender and social background; moving away from the notion of a one size fits all model for mental health interventions and to one where services recognise the important role patient choice has in delivering the best outcomes for the public.
Achieving this requires the improvement and expansion of the current mental health provisions so that an effective, comprehensive and well-structured national infrastructure for relational-based talking therapies is put in place to meet the diverse needs of people suffering from mental issues, from anxiety and depression to more severe mental disorders. There is a growing evidence base for the efficacy of these therapies and evidence that providing greater choice to patients improves outcomes.
Adequate funding must be matched by the delivery of a range of longer-term and shorter-term talking therapies to make the principle of choice a reality.
The NHS Long Term Plan’s ambition to expand access to psychotherapeutic approaches to care at a faster pace than ever before marks an important shift towards parity of esteem and could be transformative if delivered effectively and with the right workforce and leadership in place.
But a plan is only as good as its delivery. As the ‘NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24’ outlined, meeting this ambition will require a substantial expansion of the psychological professions – estimated at around 50 per cent over the next decade. It will also require the health and care workforce as a whole to become more psychologically informed.
Achieving this unprecedented transformation and workforce expansion will demand strong leadership, vision and coordination at a national level. We call on parties to commit to establishing a Chief Psychological Professions Officer, putting counselling and psychotherapy and other psychological professions on a par with medicine, nursing and the allied health professions.
VAT exemption on counselling and psychotherapy services is long overdue and would remove a needless barrier to people accessing care. VAT on mental health services provided by qualified, registered and accredited psychotherapists and counsellors contradicts legislation on parity of esteem between physical and mental health and it highlights a significant and unfair treatment between mental health practitioners.
Removing barriers to access professional mental health support should be facilitated and encouraged. We urge to extend VAT exemption to all qualified, registered and accredited psychotherapists and counsellors.
The Collaboration of the Counselling and Psychotherapy Professions (CCPP) is a coalition of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). The CCPP brings together the three leading counselling and psychotherapy accrediting bodies in the UK with a combined membership of approximately 60,000 therapists.