December 11, 2006 12:07 ET

Clock strikes midnight for psychological therapy services

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 11, 2006) - Amicus has expressed grave fears about proposals to reorganise psychology services across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust which include a 13% cut in therapy services.

The proposed changes will mean a reduction in clinical services, a dramatic downgrading of senior staff and reduced access to therapy for patients.

The proposals are promoted as improving access to therapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), praised in the press by Lord Layard. However, Amicus say that local patients will have reduced access to the mental health system and their problems will have to be extremely severe to warrant help.

Amicus is also concerned that Oxford's reputation as a centre for excellence is under threat. Consultant and senior posts are being reduced by half in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, so that less qualified staff will be expected to do more complex work.

Terry Edwards, Regional Officer for Amicus, the union representing affected health workers, said: "We are seeing another example of cuts to clinical services, following a national failure to finance pay reforms. It's clear that these changes are being driven by financial pressures rather than patient needs and when the NHS is forced into service cuts and devalue professionals in this way, something has gone very wrong.

"People with mental health problems are a vulnerable group, who may find it difficult to speak out because of stigma which means it could be hard for them to object to what is happening locally. Ultimately, it is patients who will suffer if these changes are pushed through.

"This is the latest in a string of cuts, reinforcing the view that mental health is a 'Cinderella' service. Some feel that the clock is now striking midnight."

Amicus say there has been no public consultation about the changes and there are fears about what will happen to patients who are no longer eligible for help. The union says there will be an increased burden on GPs, primary care staff and the voluntary sector.

Notes to Editors:

1. Lord Layard, London School of Economics: The Depression Report: a new deal for depression and anxiety disorders. The report highlights that an expansion of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) within the NHS would have major economic and social benefits.

2. Oxford has a reputation for being a centre of excellence for CBT - see the Bennett -Levy et al: Oxford Guide to Behavioural Experiments in Cognitive Therapy.

Contact Information

  • Regional Officer
    Terry Edwards
    02380 474688
    07768 937295
    Amicus Press Office
    Ashraf Choudhury
    020 7420 8914
    07980 224761