Couples will be offered counselling on the NHS if their relationship problems are causing depression, the health secretary has announced
The free advice will be available from April as part of the Government’s talking therapies programme, IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), which was set up to help people suffering from anxiety and depression get off sick pay and benefits and back to work.
The move, to be unveiled this week by health secretary Andy Burnham, will implement National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance that recommends relationship therapy should be offered under the IAPT programme.
In a speech on Thursday to the New Savoy Partnership, a group of organisations aiming to improve access to psychological therapies, Mr Burnham will say: “Professional support can help people rebuild relationships or separate amicably - that why I want couples therapy to be more widely available on the NHS.”
But the plan has drawn criticism from patients and doctors’ groups in the wake of recent decisions by Nice to reject life-extending drugs for cancer and treatment to reduce symptoms of dementia.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “It’s simplistic and misleading to compare highly expensive treatment for cancer to mental health services.
“NICE themselves endorse therapy like this to secure good mental health. A relatively small step can prevent more tragic consequences - like severe mental illness, depression, or long-term unemployment. The cost of offering this additional therapy is minimal, as it uses existing resources more flexibly.
“This extension of the range of therapies available will be achieved by providing additional training to existing therapists and ensuring that they work in a more joined up way with the new CBT therapists. As a result, the additional cost of this development will be marginal.”
Should the NHS provide marriage counselling?