One year after the government said it should be available nationally, only 62 PCTs are providing Beating the Blues – an eight-week computerised course to treat mild and moderate depression, said Ultrasis.
The technology, which costs PCTs £87.50 per person, is seen by the Department of Health as a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face counselling.
The package was backed by a NICE technology appraisal in 2006 and the government said all PCTs should be offering it by 31 March 2007.
There is disagreement over why PCTs have been slow to offer cCBT.
Ultrasis said it offered the government a 50% reduction if it bought the product centrally for all 152 PCTs, as PCTs have told the firm that they could not afford the product themselves.
The Department of Health said PCTs were responsible for managing their own budgets and blamed doctors for the poor uptake. ‘If the GP does not ask for it, then the PCT does not have to provide it,’ a DH spokesperson said.
But Peter Atkinson, Unison’s national nursing committee vice chairperson, said GPs were not aware of cCBT because of a lack of qualified mental health staff in the community.
‘It is that group of staff who would meet clients in a primary care setting and be recommending it,’ he said. ‘If the staff who know about these tools are not there, then how are practices meant to ask
Earlier this month the DH announced details of how it expects PCTs to recruit and train 3,600 psychological therapists by 2011.
It wants the therapists to treat 900,000 extra patients with mild depression and anxiety as an alternative to antidepressants.