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Impact of access to on line peer support on Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service usage and cost

Brendan McLoughlin, then Clinical Lead Ealing IAPT, West London Mental Health NHS Trust

Brendan's case study was completed in December 2015 and reflects 2015 prices

Common Mental Illness (CMI) affects one in six of the UK population. Depression and anxiety as a result of CMI causes significant numbers of people to claim long term sickness benefits.

The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme was implemented on the premise that providing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to people claiming long term sickness benefits for mental illness would pay for itself by reducing claimant numbers.

There has been growing interest in the potential of online peer support in the IAPT programme. One such example is the Big White Wall (BWW); a service commissioners made available to everyone referred to the IAPT service in Hounslow from 2014 onwards.

When CMI patients log on to BWW, they see a number of "bricks" which represent an issue online members want to talk about. The service is monitored by a qualified therapist.

Brendan McLoughlin, Clinical Lead Ealing IAPT at West London Mental Health NHS Trust, carried out an economic assessment of the BWW service. He identified that a total of 1073 patients were offered prescriptions to access the network. 316 people activated their access to the service, and of these, 72 used the BWW for more than 1 hour.

Brendan found no significant differences in the number of clinical sessions, duration of clinical sessions or clinical outcomes between those who used the BWW network for more than 1 hour, and patients who experienced the usual service. He concluded that further research is needed to establish any impact of BWW on wider services such as primary care, or in reducing sickness absence.

You can contact Brendan by email

Case study
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