The government has added flesh to its plans for a national network of psychological therapists to help people return to work after a period of mental ill health, depression or anxiety.
Health secretary Alan Johnson in February pledged £170m to train 3,600 psychological therapists to deliver the new service, which will be focused on providing cognitive behavioural therapy.
The move is seen by ministers as a key driver in reducing its £12bn Incapacity Benefit bill and in helping to get a million of the estimated 2.6 million claimants back into work.
Johnson said that, by 2010-11, the NHS would be spending £170m a year on psychological therapies, including £30m in 2008-09 and £100m in 2009-10.
This investment, he said, would lead to 900,000 more people being treated for depression and anxiety, of which 450,000 were likely to be completely cured and 25,000 would move off sick pay or benefits.
The therapists will be trained to deliver high-intensity therapy for people with moderate to severe conditions or low-intensity therapy for people with mild to moderate conditions.
All GP practices would have access to psychological therapies as the programme rolled out, he added.
Johnson also unveiled national guidelines on the programme.
Health minister Ivan Lewis said more than one in six people suffered from such mental health problems and GPs spent about one-third of their time dealing with them.
“Psychological therapies have proved to be as effective as drugs in tackling these common mental health problems,” he added.