bottle pillsThe Health and Social Care Information Centre has revealed that more than 50 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were issued last year, the highest ever number and 7.5% up on the year before.

In some towns and cities, such as Barnsley and Durham, as many as 1 in 6 adults is now prescribed anti-depressants in an average month, the analysis of prescribing statistics revealed.

In some places the number of patients prescribed anti-depressants exceeds the number of people in that area estimated to suffer from depression and anxiety by the NHS England's Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (PMS).

For example, in Lincolnshire some 75,500 anti-depressant prescriptions are issued each month, yet the PMS suggests there are only 58,700 people suffering from depression and anxiety in the area.

Official guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) urges doctors in England to treat patients suffering mild to moderate depression with psychological therapies. Medication is recommended for more severe depressive illness in conjunction with therapy.

Successful therapies
However, access to psychological therapies is patchy. Figures show that in Hillingdon, north London, less than 2% of people estimated to be suffering from depression or anxiety received therapy treatment last year.

In a statement, the Chair of Hillingdon Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Ian Goodman, said: “We recognise that the number of patients in Hillingdon with anxiety or depression who are getting treatment through the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service is low.

“Our patients who do get IAPT treatment have high recovery rates, so we are committed to improving access so that more patients can receive this high quality care.”

The rise in anti-depressant use comes against a backdrop of the number of prescription items dispensed in the community per year topping one billion for the first time according to the HSCIC statistics. For more on this story visit our sister site