Non-specialist mental health nurses could provide effective psychotherapy for patients with depression, leading to savings for the NHS, preliminary research indicates.
A study found staff with minimal training would be able to successfully carry out behavioural activation, a form of psychotherapy, to treat those suffering from severe depression.
Psychotherapies are currently carried out by specialist therapists, but using less-qualified staff could be similarly effective and could save the NHS money, the study by the Mental Health Research Centre at Durham University found.
The study saw mental health nurses undertake five days of training in behavioural activation and one hour of clinical supervision every fortnight.
David Ekers, a nurse consultant at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation Trust and honorary clinical lecturer at Durham University, said: “The results indicate that with limited training, generic mental health workers can be trained to deliver clinically effective behavioural activation to people with long-standing depression.”
He said that although the study was small-scale and bigger trials were needed, the results so far were promising.
Fewer than 10% of people suffering from depression currently get access to psychological therapy if they are in need of it, according to estimates.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, could pave the way for the use of mental health nurses in treating depression, helping to ease the pressure on specialist therapists, who are often in demand, and increase access to psychotherapies.
Durham University conducted the research in conjunction with the University of York and the University of Exeter.
- Ekers D, et al. Behavioural activation delivered by the non-specialist: phase II randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2011) 198: 66-72
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