GPs `Forced' to Prescribe Drugs

Article excerpt

Byline: By Lyndsay Moss

Concerns about the inappropriate use of antidepressants to treat patients are highlighted in a survey of doctors today.

An investigation by doctors' magazine Pulse found that depressed patients were being prescribed the drugs against national guidelines because of a "crisis" in access to mental health services such as talking therapies.

The magazine said that people faced a lottery in access to therapy and counselling, with waiting lists of months or even years in some areas.

The findings came from a survey of 170 primary care organisations in England and Wales and one in Scotland, and in a separate survey of 1,300 GPs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended psychological therapies as first-line treatment for mild depression.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Talking therapies are essential components of effective mental health services and NICE guidelines have proved the effectiveness of therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The recent White Paper on care outside hospitals emphasised our commitment to expanding access to talking therapies, and we will shortly be announcing plans to establish two demonstration sites.

"These will focus on people of working age with mild mental health problems with the aim of helping them remain in or return to work. They will aim to establish an evidence base for the effectiveness of such therapies."

But the survey of GPs found that 93% said they had to resort to prescribing antidepressants because of a lack of available alternatives. Almost eight out of 10 (79%) said they were dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied with the services in their area. …