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Project 1: Enhancing recovery, reliable improvement rates and supporting new digital web-based treatments

Transparency about the outcomes of mental health services (IAPT approach): an analysis of public data, The Lancet, December 2017. Read the article here


In Britain today, one in six adults suffers from depression or a crippling anxiety disorder and it is estimated that at least a third of families includes someone who is mentally ill.

World Health Organisation measures of the scale and severity of illness find mental illness accounts for nearly 40% of all illness in rich countries like ours. By contrast, stroke, cancer, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes account for under 20%.

In 2008, the government introduced a national programme which was aimed at ensuring all those suffering with anxiety and depression would be able to access evidence-based psychological therapy treatment for their mental health problems. The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative has been rolled out successfully across England and patients can now access effective psychological help.

The Oxford AHSN Anxiety and Depression Network works with all the IAPT services in the Thames Valley (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes) which combined take some 20,000 patients through a course of treatment each year. Our vision is to consistently provide the right, NICE-recommended psychological treatments of the highest quality in a timely fashion so that more patients recover and enjoy better quality of life as a result of treatment.

Our analyses of performance and patient outcome data quantify variations in access rates and outcomes (recovery and reliable improvement rates*) by service, by clinical condition (depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, health anxiety and specific phobias), and by patient demographics (e.g. age, ethnicity).

Once outcome variability has been quantified, the network aims to identify predictors of that variability in terms of service models, procedures, types of interventions, therapist training, etc.

The findings are fed back to services so that they can use them to restructure their service provision as appropriate to further enhance patient outcomes.

Read about the network’s achievements in improving recovery rates here.

The network supports Thames Valley-wide trials of new web-based treatments (e.g. for post-traumatic stress disorder) and roll-out of approved web-based treatments such as social anxiety disorder (SAD). Network members are also involved in piloting virtual reality treatments for specific phobias.

As part of this project’s objective to increase numbers of patients who successfully receive a course of treatment,  the Anxiety and Depression Network has also joined the Oxford AHSN Older Adults Network which is seeking to increase older adult uptake of psychological therapies where there is/should be a diagnosis of anxiety/depression.

*A referral has shown reliable improvement if there is a significant improvement in their condition following a course of treatment, measured by the difference between their first and last scores on questionnaires tailored to their specific condition.