Reduction in internet-enabled therapy sessions from 2021 to 2023

A new statistical release from NHS England regarding NHS Talking Therapies (previously known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies or IAPT) has highlighted that 45,668 internet-enabled therapy sessions took place over the course of April this year, a drop of 19.8 percent from April 2022.

In April 2022, NHSE shared that 54,713 internet-enabled sessions took place, meanwhile April 2021 saw 49,577 internet-enabled sessions take place; not quite as high as the figures reported in the following year, but 8.5 percent higher than 2023’s statistics.

For April 2023, 129,753 referrals were made, with 90 percent of referrals accessing NHS Talking Therapies within six weeks, with a total of 8.2 sessions of treatment on average per referral.

The overall rate for referrals indicates a slight decline – from 139,757 referrals in April 2021, to 130,064 referrals in April 2022, and down to 129,753 in April 2023. However, NHS England notes issues “affecting the quality and coverage” of the data.

The role of digital to support Talking Therapies is progressing, with an example from NICE who has recommended nine digital therapies to support adults with anxiety disorders and adults with depression. NICE is currently further reviewing evidence generated and is carrying out a “full assessment on the clinical and cost effectiveness of these interventions”.

Last month, in a keynote speech at London Tech Week, Lord Markham placed emphasis on the government’s plans to support innovation, with focus on piloting new mental health technologies to support with “levelling up the use of digital tools within our existing NHS mental health talking therapies services”.

In May, we heard about digital therapy in practice from Judith Chapman, clinical services consultant and former clinical director at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Judith described how the trust implemented an online cognitive behavioural therapy solution and observed that the platform was “very useful for reaching younger people and particular cohorts such as men and the unemployed.” She added: “The concept of having a therapist in their pocket seemed to really appeal. One of our patients said it’s like a paracetamol – everyone should have it so you can dip into it when you need it.”