Antidepressant prescriptions in East Lancashire have risen in three years
Doctors in East Lancashire have been prescribing more antidepressants over the last three years but at a slower pace than the average increase for England, according to NHS data.
General Practitioners have called on the Government to increase the funding for psychotherapist services to rely less on these drugs as more people seek help for mental health problems.
Figures show that antidepressant prescriptions in East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group went up by 15% from 2014/15 to 2017/18, the latest period with updated data.
Over that period, the number of registered patients in the area hardly varied, rising by 2.1%.
From April 2017 to March 2018, medical services prescribed antidepressants 517,947 times, 67,655 more than three years earlier. These figures account for the total number of items prescribed by GPs in the NHS, so several of them could have been issued for the same patient.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said this trend should not be automatically seen as a bad thing and may indicate that "more patients feel able to disclose mental health problems" and seek medical care.
She added: "Antidepressants are of proven benefit for many patients, but no patient wants to be reliant on any medication long-term, and where possible we will explore alternatives, such as talking therapies. However, there is a severe lack of these services in the community.
"When GPs do prescribe antidepressants, it will have been after a full and frank discussion with the patients based on their unique circumstance. However, there is also the issue that the standard 10-minute GP consultation is increasingly inadequate to properly deliver care to patients with complex health needs.
"NHS England's GP Forward View pledged for every GP practice to have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists. We need this, and its other promises - including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs - to be delivered as a matter of urgency, so that we can continue to provide the best possible mental health care to our patients."
The increase in antidepressants prescriptions in East Lancashire was lower than the average for England, where it rose by 18% since 2014/15.
Stephen Buckley, head of Information at mental health charity Mind, said: "We need to understand more about how long people are being prescribed antidepressants for, the impact of any long-term prescribing, and also whether other treatments are offered.
"Antidepressants can be effective for some but aren’t the answer for everyone, especially those with mild depression. They also come with potential adverse side effects, so it’s really important anyone given a prescription is made aware of these and is offered regular reviews of their treatment.
“The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme has helped more people get talking therapies. But in some parts of the country, people are facing long waits. It’s possible that those waiting for therapy could be prescribed antidepressants instead or in the interim. Giving people a choice of treatments is important."