Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Concern over NHS Self-Help Book Trend

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Concern over NHS Self-Help Book Trend

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE BROWN mike.brown@reachplc.com

PEOPLE with mental illnesses are effectively being told to "look after themselves", experts have warned.

More than 650 Teessiders were treated with self-help books in the last year.

The news came after the NHS published figures that, for the first time, revealed how many people are being treated with books for conditions like depression and anxiety. The bulk of the 2,560 people in the North-east were treated with a selfhelp book were "guided" through it with the help of a counsellor.

But a further 15 Teessiders were not given guidance, the figures reveal.

The figures are rounded to the nearest five to protect identities, meaning the actual numbers might be very slightly higher or lower.

'Dr Tony O'Sullivan, co-chair of pressure group Keep Our NHS Public, said: "Self-help books may beneficial for some patients but they are no substitute for skilled, sensitive professional medical support, therapies and intervention."

In Teesside, 450 patients were prescribed the books in the South Tees area - which covers Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland - while another 210 were in the Hartlepool and Stockton area.

Dr O'Sullivan said "significant real-terms cuts" mean there aren't enough "staff or resources to treat all patients adequately".

"The Government and NHS England are promoting self-help books and other tools like them under the heading of 'social prescribing' amidst a crisis in staffing caused by a sustained funding squeeze," he continued. "It is valid to look for therapeutic alternatives in addition to drugs.

"But the danger is a message of 'Look after yourself, because we aren't going to' - targeting illness without drugs, partly as an alternative to a lack of NHS funding." Mental health funds have been slashed in recent years, with analysis from the Royal College of Psychiatrists finding that Government spending in 2016/17 was lower than six years earlier once inflation is taken into account. …

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