There is debate about how best to increase access to psychological therapy and deliver mental healthcare effectively and efficiently at a national level. One trend is the increased use of the telephone to deliver therapy. However, there is the potential to disadvantage certain patient groups and/or impact on uptake of help. This study aims to answer three questions: (i) Which factors are associated with being offered an assessment by telephone? (ii) Which factors are associated with attendance at assessment? and (iii) What is the impact of an assessment by telephone on subsequent treatment appointment?
Routine outcome data was provided by seven UK Improving Access to Psychological Therapy services. The analysis sample comprised 49,923 patients who referred to 615 general practices in 2017. Multilevel modelling, including service and GP practice as random factors, was used to answer the three research questions.
The offer of an initial assessment by telephone was strongly associated with local service configuration. Patient self-referral, a shorter wait, greater age and lower deprivation were associated with attendance at assessment and subsequent treatment session. Telephone mode assessment had no impact on the uptake of the assessment but may influence the uptake of further treatment if this was also by telephone. The practitioner carrying out the assessment had a significant effect on subsequent treatment uptake.
Offering telephone assessments does not have a negative impact on uptake of assessment and services may benefit by facilitating and integrating telephone assessments into their systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of telephone and other remote means of delivery, and results from this study can inform services to consider how best to re-configure post-pandemic.