Why are we asking this now?
There is growing frustration among GPs at the difficulty they face in providing psychological therapy for patients with mental problems including depression. A survey by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) published at the weekend found almost two-thirds of respondents said they were "rarely" able to obtain treatment for patients within two months. Getting help for children who had suffered abuse or trauma was even more difficult. Professor Steve Field, the president of the RCGP, said: "People should have access to approved treatments, and this has to be a wake-up call."
Why is psychological treatment important?
Because, as Professor Field said, "if patients can't get access to talking therapies, then they will be on medication". A couple of decades ago, the advice to those who were depressed and out of work was to get "on yer bike". Today it is as likely to be to get on the couch.
What does this mean for patients?
Whereas in the past, GPs might have prescribed Prozac or other antidepressants, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is now the treatment of first choice – where it is available – for the millions who turn up complaining they cannot cope. In 2007, the Government earmarked £173m to train 3,600 extra therapists by 2010.