RNS Number : 4265J
03 December 2008
RELEASE: DECEMBER 3, 2008
Ultrasis response to speech delivered by Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health to the New Savoy Partnership Annual Conference, Psychological Therapies in the NHS
Gerald Malone, Chairman of Ultrasis plc and former Minister for Health, has written to Health Secretary Alan Johnson calling on him to reconcile recent claims that the duty of government was to 'make sure those with mental health problems could access the support they needed' with the government's claims that 2006 guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of stress and depression had already been implemented.
In February 2006 NICE recommended that Ultrasis' flagship cognitive behavioural therapy delivered by computer for the treatment of mild and moderate depression, Beating the Blues, should be available in every Primary Care Trust (PCT) across England, offering immediate, easily accessible treatment to 200,000 sufferers a year.
Since then, claimed Mr. Malone, ministers and officials had 'wriggled desperately' to avoid implementing the NICE guidance, but that the wriggling had now escalated to 'brazen dishonesty'.
Mr Malone said, 'Mr Johnson can't have it both ways. His predecessor Patricia Hewitt claimed in March 2007 that NICE guidance had already been implemented and patients should have this service provided by their local PCT. Now, nearly two years after that speech, his attempt to make a virtue of the fact that the lack of provision for people experiencing anxiety and depression is 'something we are determined to change' is hypocritical.
'The fact is, Patricia Hewitt's claim was untrue and he has done almost nothing since to put matters right - despite being fully briefed.'
This week in an answer to a parliamentary question tabled by Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk Norman Lamb, Phil Hope, Minister of State for Care Services, admitted that PCTs in England had commissioned just 30,458 treatments, of the 400,000 - less than 8% of the treatments recommended by NICE.
Mr Malone said, 'The £170m investment trumpeted by Mr Johnson in his speech for his Increased Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative will provide treatment for some 900,000 people over three years and we support that.
'But if the government had met in full its promise to deliver the NICE guidance on computerised CBT more than 1million people would have already been treated for a fraction of the cost, providing a cost benefit to the NHS in excess of £126m per annum.
'With more than 10m people suffering mental health problems it's not a question of 'one option or the other', but using every option available, especially when the cost of this provision is minimal and available now.'
The Ultrasis' chairman said that he had fully briefed Mr Johnson when he became Secretary of State on the situation and had received 'contorted replies clearly drafted by officials determined to get their minister off the hook of complying with NICE guidance', a commitment successive ministers have, however, maintained in public they honour.
Mr Malone said, 'I welcome the fact that this failure to honour NICE guidance is now gaining increasing attention in Parliament, both the Commons and the Lords as it's high time that the government was held to account for not providing the promised patient care.
'Maybe Mr Johnson will now take a personal interest rather than hide behind statements fed to him by his officials. If he repeats the claims he has made in public on the floor of the Commons the Secretary of State will risk misleading the House, an altogether more serious offence than simply misleading the public!'
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