The Royal College of General Practitioners has blamed limited access to talking therapies for a surge in antidepressant use.

The NHS prescribed a record number of antidepressants last year, new figures from NHS Digital have revealed.

Prescriptions for 64.7m antidepressants were dispensed in England in 2016.

This represents an increase of 3.7m on the 61m items dispensed the previous year.

“Antidepressants can be effective drugs when used appropriately and they do help a lot of patients, said Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP. 

"Nevertheless, no doctor wants their patients to be reliant on medication, and where possible we will always explore alternative treatments, such as talking therapies – but there is a severe lack of these services available in the community, where they could be of great benefit to patients."

"We need more of these services in the community and we need all GPs to have better, quicker access to them." 

“While at face value the rise might seem alarming, it could also be indicative of better identification and diagnosis of mental health conditions across healthcare – and reducing stigma associated with mental health in society, leading to more people with mental health conditions seeking medical assistance.

"Both would be positive steps forward as we strive for parity of esteem between physical and mental health."