Overcoming the Challenge of Non-Attendance to NHS Talking Therapies Appointments

Therapy For You, the NHS Talking Therapies provider for North East and South East Essex, is working to address the issue of non-attendance to therapy sessions. Here (NAME) explains what the service is doing to address this problem and make life better for their patients.

It is no secret that there is a strong demand for mental health services across the UK right now. Waiting lists are high, meaning appointments must be carefully organised to ensure that patients receive the consistent support they need on their path to feeling better.

With this in mind, missing appointments can be disruptive to both a person’s progress to recovery and the smooth running of these services. Research in 2020 into patient engagement towards NHS Talking Therapies services (then known as IAPT) revealed that approximately 12% of all appointments were missed.

“As therapists, our priority is giving our patients the support they need to help them feel better,” explains Hannah Pione, Digital Service Lead and CBT Therapist at Therapy For You. “Part of this is working to the best of our ability to fit appointments around their needs and circumstances, so that they can be seen as soon as possible.”

“When appointments are missed, they can both hinder a person’s recovery and mean we lose an opportunity to help another patient waiting for help. So, at Therapy For You we are taking steps to resolve this issue to improve the experiences of our service users.”

The importance of attending therapy appointments

As noted above, the impact of missed therapy appointments affects individual patients and the wider service as a whole.

“Above all else, a missed therapy appointment is a barrier to someone’s path to recovery,” says Pione. “Regular, consistent sessions with a professional therapist are essential in making ongoing progress toward a healthier, happier relationship with our mental health.”

 “If you miss an appointment with a physiotherapist following a broken arm or leg, it can noticeably set back your progress. Therapy works in the same way – breaking away from the structure of regular sessions can cause someone to regress into unhelpful habits.”

Particularly with today’s high waiting lists, accepting and attending the first available appointment can ensure that patients aren’t left waiting to receive the support they’re seeking.

“We understand that long waiting times for sessions are not ideal, which is why we do everything we can to get appointments set up for our patients as soon as possible,” says Pione.

“This ensures that they can be seen much quicker and begin their journey to recovery. If this appointment is missed, it may be weeks before another opportunity becomes available. So it really is in someone’s best interests to make every effort to attend their scheduled appointments.”

Of course, life can be unpredictable. Emergencies and unforeseen issues can potentially get in the way of attending sessions. Therapy For You recognises this, and when circumstances prevent someone from making an appointment, they work to accommodate this.

“If for some reason a patient must cancel their session, we always ask them to give us as much notice as possible. This allows us to identify a suitable time to reschedule their appointment, and allows us to open up the slot for someone else waiting for help,” explains Pione.

“To minimise the risk of disruptions, we typically ensure our patients’ appointments happen on the same day, at the same time, every week. This allows our patients to fit sessions into their routine and plan ahead, so that their treatment can continue seamlessly.”

In addition to ensuring patients receive consistent, ongoing support, attending sessions helps to create a more efficient, available service for all patients.

“Each therapy session is more than a key step in a person’s journey; it is a valuable resource,” says Pione.

“By attending your session, you not only help yourself get better, but also ensure that our services are being utilised effectively to help others. It benefits you and your whole community!”

How Therapy For You helps people make their appointments

As non-attendance is still a challenge for NHS Talking Therapies services, Therapy For You is taking steps to make referring for and arranging therapy sessions as quick and easy as possible.

“We know that self-referral is a strong indicator that someone is eager to improve their mental wellbeing. We have invested in making this process as streamlined and accessible to users as possible, most recently through our digital assistant Limbic Access,” says Pione.

Limbic Access is an innovative mental health referral chatbot that takes users through a clear, step-by-step guide to find the best therapy service for their needs and circumstances. Through a series of simple questions, users can refer to Therapy For You online in a matter of minutes, and then arrange their initial assessment appointment through the service’s convenient ‘choose and book’ system.

“We introduced Limbic last year, and it has already had a huge impact on how easily people access our service,” explains Pione. “To date, over 7,000 people have used it to find the right mental health treatment for them, creating a more focused experience for users.”

“Furthermore, by directly connecting to our booking system, this allows our clients to choose a date and time that best suits them for their initial assessment. This has already reduced the number of appointments missed at our service by around 8%.”

In addition to Limbic’s smoother self-referral process, Therapy For You offers a varied selection of treatment pathways. This gives their users greater flexibility to access treatment that suits their circumstances and routines, rather than simply a rigid face-to-face approach.

 “At Therapy For You, we are always working to improve our service and to lead a more accessible, inclusive future for mental health treatment,” says Pione. “For example, if our patients are waiting a while for a session to open up, they can access a range of online CBT courses delivered by our own clinicians.”

“These are not simply videos; they are full treatment courses where our users can log their progress and print out associated course diaries and trackers to support their recovery.”

Above all else, by striving to offer appointments around people’s needs and circumstances, and providing a great level of flexibility and choice of therapy options, Therapy For You is committed to making it easier for its users to arrange appointments, attend sessions, and find their path to feeling better.

“Life happens. Last-minute incidents will crop up that stop people from reaching their scheduled sessions. But, through these steps, we’re making good progress in cutting down non-attendance, and helping people access support quicker and easier.”

Hannah Pione is the Digital Services Lead and a CBT Therapist at Therapy For You, part of the Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust.

About Therapy For You

Therapy For You is the local NHS Talking Therapies provider for Colchester, Tendring, Southend, Castle Point and Rochford, committed to helping people feel better through a range of treatment pathways for anxiety, depression, stress and more, including:

●     Omni Online CBT courses

●     1-1 therapy

●     ieso typed therapy

●     Group therapy

●     Video therapy

●     Phone therapy

Working in partnership with Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), Therapy For You remains devoted to breaking down the barriers to mental health access. They have helped 98.6% of its users seek meaningful support and 99.4% to better understand their difficulties through proven treatments and innovative online therapy.

The service provides treatment to individuals aged 18 and above in South East Essex and individuals aged 16 and above in North East Essex who are not currently receiving secondary mental health care or crisis services.

If you would like to learn more about their services, visit their website at www.therapyforyou.co.uk, or reach out on 01268 739 128 if you live in South East Essex, or 01206 334 001 if you are a resident of North East Essex.


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Website: therapyforyou.co.uk