A new study reveals that cognitive therapy over the phone is just as effective as meeting face-to-face. The research was published September 28, in the journal PLoS ONE.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge together with the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care (NIHR CLAHRC) and NHS Midlands & East also found that providing talking therapy over the phone increases access to psychological therapies for people with common mental disorders and potentially saves the NHS money.
For the study, data from 39,000 patients in seven established Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services (an initiative which aims to expand the availability of psychological therapies) in the East of England were used to compare Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) delivered face-to-face versus over the phone. For all but an infrequent, identifiable clinical group with more severe illness, therapy over the phone was as effective as face to face, and the cost per session was 36.2% lower.
Patients may be unable to access health services due to transport problems, work commitments and physical disability, among many reasons. So increasing availability of talking therapies over the phone will make mental health services more accessible to patients.
On the back of the study results, NHS Midlands & East has instigated a regional training programme to standardise service delivery and ensure therapists are competent at phone contacts. The training programme has recently been extended into a partnership with a third party organisation.
Professor Peter Jones, Principal Investigator of the study from the University of Cambridge, said: "Providing therapy over the phone will not only help individuals gain much-needed access to mental health treatment, it will provide a more cost effective way of providing these services at a time when everyone is concerned about cutting costs."
Mental health illnesses affect one in four adults in Britain every year. Additionally, the NHS spends more on mental health than it does on cancer, heart disease, stroke and asthma put together (a total of £9.95 billion in 2010-2011), with general practitioners spending more than a third of their time on mental health issues.
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