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Applying behavioural science techniques to increase referrals of older adults to psychological therapies

3rd September 2019

Evaluation Report published

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) for older adults with common mental health issues (depression, anxiety) is a national and local south London priority. IAPT is as effective for older people as for those of working age. Typically, this age group tends to respond well to talking therapies but currently have low referral rates. Signs of depression and anxiety are often overlooked and assumed to be a result of getting older. The proportion of people over 65 referred to IAPT services is lower than the proportion of the general population.

During 2018, the Health Innovation Network worked in partnership with two south London IAPT providers, Lewisham Psychological Therapies Service and Mind in Bexley.

The project used behavioural science (the study of how people make daily decisions) techniques to increase referrals of older adults (65+) into IAPT services.

The project aimed to address some of the barriers that have been identified nationally that prevent older people accessing IAPT by:

  • reducing the stigma older people may attach to mental health
  • informing healthcare professionals that common mental health issues are not a normal part of ageing
  • communicating the effectiveness of IAPT services as a treatment for older adults
  • increasing the confidence levels of IAPT therapists to treat older adults

Jackie Ganley, Lewisham IAPT Clinician, said: “We are now starting our second older adults Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group – the first was very successful. Also, we are geared up to do the flu clinic IAPT promotions next year – having made the relationships with the nurses and some GPs through this project”

Download the Evaluation report here

To find out more contact Health Innovation Network Mental Health lead, Aileen Jackson at aileen.jackson@nhs.net

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