In a recent study by ieso Digital Health, conducted in partnership with Dorset HealthCare University NHS Trust and York Health Economics Consortium, data has emerged that lends robust support to something the Society has been campaigning on for some time now: the need for timely mental health intervention. According to this study, slashing treatment and waiting times for mental health services from 12 months to just three could lead to significant financial savings for the NHS, as well as vastly improved outcomes for millions of UK residents.
This is great news for the NCPS's Direct Access to Counselling Campaign, which has long advocated for the measures that are being empirically endorsed here. The campaign aims to facilitate easier and quicker access to counselling services, sidestepping the long waiting times currently being experienced within the NHS Talking Therapies service. With over 60,000 accredited counsellors and psychotherapists available across the UK, the workforce to enact this change is already in place.
The potential impact is hard to ignore: a projected annual saving of £600 million could be achieved by helping the estimated 7.1 million people who currently require, but are not accessing, NHS Talking Therapies. Ana Catarino, Director of Clinical Science at ieso, warns that this is likely just the tip of the iceberg. She states, "With one in six UK adults believed to have depression or anxiety, the savings could actually be in the hundreds of millions".
For the NCPS, the study's findings come as a validation of a long-held stance—that timely and individualised mental health support is not merely a healthcare issue, but a societal imperative with significant economic ramifications. Long waiting lists don't just harm individual wellbeing; they also place undue strain on the health system as a whole. The compounding severity of untreated conditions creates a spiral of escalating treatment costs and complexity.
The Direct Access to Counselling Campaign, bolstered by this new empirical support, offers a solution that aligns perfectly with Catarino’s assertion that "there is no one-size-fits-all approach in mental health". The NCPS has long contended that what works for some may not work for all, which is why its campaign promotes more variety in ways of working, acknowledging the varied needs of the people that are using the services.
As mental health care gains increasing attention in a post-pandemic society, the ieso study serves as a timely, evidence-based affirmation of the NCPS’s long-standing efforts. It’s heartening to see independent research reflect what the Society has campaigned for: that quicker, more accessible mental healthcare isn't just good practice; it's an economic and moral necessity.