Critiquing IAPT

Dr Mike Scott writes.

In the September issue, Ross Harper – CEO of Limbic, providing AI software for mental healthcare – extolled the virtues of their collaboration with four IAPT services. The supposed gains were all in operational matters, e.g. reduced time for assessment, with no evidence that the AI has made a clinically relevant difference to client’s lives. 

This is merely the most recent example of the biased reporting of The Psychologist with regards to IAPT. I raised these concerns in a 2014 submission, ‘IAPT – The Emperor Has No Clothes’, and the Editor rejected it with the line ‘I also think the topic of IAPT, at this time and in this form, is one that might struggle to truly engage and inform our large and diverse audience’. This response was breathtaking given that IAPT was/is the largest employer of psychologists. 

Fast forward to 2018, and I had published a paper ‘IAPT – The Need for Radical Reform’ in the Journal of Health Psychology, presenting data that of 90 IAPT clients I assessed independently using a standardised diagnostic interview only 10 per cent ‘recovered’ (in the sense that they lost their diagnostic status). This contrasts with IAPT’s claimed 50 per cent recovery rate. The paper has received only a passing mention in the pages of The Psychologist [‘Letters’, Flatt and Lido, April 2021]. This year I wrote a rebuttal of an IAPT inspired paper that was published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, ‘Ensuring IAPT Does What It says On The Tin’, but again no mention of this debate in The Psychologist.

In my view the BPS is guilty of a total dereliction of duty to mental health service users in failing to facilitate a critique of IAPT. If psychologists cannot pick out the log in their own eye, how can they pick out the splinter in others? 

Dr Mike Scott 
[email protected]

Editor’s reply: Funnily enough, we’ve also received strong criticism over the years for being too critical of IAPT! While I stand by my ‘at this time and in this form’, those are ever-shifting considerations and I’m pleased to now be in contact with you about a potential contribution to the magazine.

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