Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme

We explore how access to the IAPT programme has changed over time in England.


Last updated: 01/05/2020

Access and waiting times
Primary and community care Mental health


The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme is designed to support the NHS in delivering evidence-based psychological therapies for people with depression and anxiety disorders in England.

How many people are referred to IAPT and how many referrals start treatment? 01/05/2020

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15% of the community prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders (900,000 people). The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health set out that this should increase to reach 25% of need so that at least 600,000 more adults with depression and anxiety can access IAPT services each year by 2020/21. The NHS Long Term Plan then increased this target to an additional 380,000 adults accessing IAPT services by 2023/24.

The number of referrals to IAPT and the number of referrals starting treatment have both increased over time. In 2011/12 there were 887,452 referrals to IAPT, and this increased to 1,596,637 referrals in 2018/19 (an 80% increase). The number of referrals starting treatment more than doubled, from 533,550 in 2011/12 to 1,092,291 in 2018/19. The 2015 access target has been met, but the number of people starting IAPT treatment must still increase considerably if the 2023/24 target is to be reached. In order to achieve the 1.88 million target, an extra 787,000 people must gain access to IAPT services over the next five years.

Has the number of people who finish a course of treatment increased over time? 01/05/2020

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Successfully finishing a course of treatment is only one outcome for those referred to IAPT. Other outcomes include: declining or dropping out of treatment, being referred to another service, not being suitable for IAPT treatment or dying before they reach an outcome.

The number of people successfully finishing a course of treatment increased by 69% between Q1 2012/13 and Q2 2016/17, but since then improvement has stalled. In Q3 2019/20, 147,359 people finished a course of IAPT treatment, which is only 8% more than it was three years ago. This observation is worrying, because over the same time period there has been a much larger 21% increase in people starting treatment. It could indicate an overstretched system in which people start a course of IAPT treatment but are unable to schedule regular appointments due to a lack of capacity.

Did IAPT treatment help people move to recovery? 01/05/2020

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When patients begin treatment through the IAPT programme they are clinically assessed for scores of anxiety and depression; those who score highly are considered a clinical case. When reassessed at the end of treatment, people who no longer score as highly for anxiety and depression (so are no longer a clinical case), are considered recovered. The recovery rate is the proportion of people who start treatment with a high score, and complete treatment having reduced their score below the clinical threshold.

The recovery rate has increased gradually over time, from 46% in Q1 2012/13 to 51% in Q3 2019/20. The target recovery rate of 50% was first achieved in Q4 2016/17, and has been met since then.

About this data

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is an NHS programme in England that offers interventions approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for treating people with depression and anxiety.

A patient referred to IAPT has moved to recovery if they were defined as a clinical case at the start of their treatment and not as a clinical case at the end of their treatment. This is measured by scores from questionnaires tailored to their specific condition. The Government target is that 50% of eligible referrals to IAPT services should move to recovery.

For more information about the data, please see the NHS Digital website.