Improving access to mental health services


Acknowledging how we feel and seeking help isn’t easy. Finding our way around services can sometimes make it even harder. People who use Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) consistently have improved mental health outcomes, and give positive feedback on the therapy they receive. However, the waiting list for IAPT is large, with many more people needing and wanting mental health treatment. For this reason, we were brought in to improve how people access the mental health service.


During a 2-week design sprint we identified issues with the communication and booking systems. We prototyped, tested and iterated a number of solutions for improving people’s experiences accessing IAPT.

Booking System

We prototyped and tested a new booking system. The new online system meant that people would not be automatically assigned an appointment that they couldn’t reschedule. They simply booked online at a convenient time. This relieved pressure on the waiting list, there were less appointments cancelled and less no-shows.

Text Reminders

Previously people would receive a paper letter telling them when their appointment was. Text message reminders allowed people to know exactly what to expect at their appointment.

Efficient Phone system

We changed the answering machine on the phone line, encouraging people to complete online registration for the service instead of waiting for an admin assistant. This reduced the number of calls and redirected people to get the support they were looking for.


  • IAPT Contract Manager: Hannah Pidsley
  • Project Lead: Liam Hinshelwood
  • Service Designer: Charlotte Fountaine


As a result of the project, Addaction has made changes to their online registration form to make it simpler to complete and more intuitive. They have also introduced a new booking process to reduce waiting lists and assessment time. The IAPT service is starting to see an approximately 90% attendance rate from appointments booked online, up from 60%, meaning that roughly 700 to 800 more people are entering treatment each month. The work has been recognised by NHS England and NHS Improvement as examples of best practice.