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Research and Projects

South West Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Evaluation

Who is involved?

Theme: CLAHRC - Mental Health & Dementia
Status: Complete


Mental health problems account for over a third of all illness in Britain.  Government figures indicate that at any time one in six working adults is experiencing depression and/or anxiety. 

Traditionally, GPs prescribe medication such as anti-depressants or refer patients to ‘in-practice’ counselling where it was available. In many GP surgeries, those patients not wanting medication were often offered no treatment at all. Since 2008, the NHS has funded the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. This programme aims to provide talking therapy as recommended by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for those with anxiety and depression. It is hoped that IAPT will save the NHS up to £272 million by providing effective treatment to help people stay in and return to work. 

When the Strategic Health Authority provided funding for each of the IAPT services of England, some funds were identified for a research evaluation of the new services. The Peninsula Medical School won the tender for this research and the South West Evaluation project started in July 2009.

In the South West there are 14 primary care trusts (PCTs) which have been provided with funds to set up an IAPT service for the people living in their area. Whilst each service provides talking therapy for anxiety and depression, they have been set up and run in different ways.

Project aims

This project aimed to:

  • Identify the variation in service design in each of the South West IAPT services, comparing access to services and recovery from anxiety and depression

  • Investigate the extent to which variation in access and recovery is related to variation in service design

IAPT methodology

This was a mixed methods project which used a de-identified copy of the patient data collected routinely in IAPT services (we don’t have any access to patient records). We also collected survey data from all of the services and interview data in four case study services.

Patient involvement in the research

A consultation group, the ‘Talking Therapies Involvement Group’, was set up to better understand the data collected and how patient’s lives are affected. The group consists of patients that have used IAPT services, experts in patient involvement in mental health research and some of the researchers on the project.

Anticipated impacts

The South West IAPT Evaluation could lead to improvements in IAPT services, both regionally and nationally, which could enhance the care received by patients suffering from depression and anxiety.

Project news

The first round of data collection is now complete and an Executive Summary of the Interim Report has been complied.

Further information

For more information on this project, please read the following documents:

Others Involved

Professor John Campbell, Dr Adam Qureshi, Dr William Henley, Sophie Pettit, Dan Marshall


NHS SW Region
14 Primary Care Trusts across the South-West