NHS Anti-depressant prescriptions double in a decade

NEW FIGURES FROM THE NHS HAVE SHOWN THAT THE NUMBER OF PRESCRIPTIONS FOR ANTIDEPRESSANTS IN ENGLAND HAS ALMOST DOUBLED IN THE PAST DECADE.

DATA FROM NHS DIGITAL SHOW THAT 70.9 MILLION PRESCRIPTIONS FOR ANTIDEPRESSANTS WERE GIVEN OUT IN 2018, COMPARED WITH 36 MILLION IN 2008. FIGURES ALSO SHOW A RISE FROM 67.5 MILLION IN 2017 AND 64.7 MILLION IN 2016.

ANTIDEPRESSANTS SHOULD NOT BE A ‘GO-TO’ FOR FIRST INSTANCES

“For many people, antidepressants can be lifesaving, but they should not be the ‘go-to’ for first instances of mild depression,” Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said.

“The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends only using antidepressants with patients who have moderate to severe depression or for patients whose depression lasts for a long time.

“We need to ensure there is investment in alternative treatments such as talking therapies, and more research into the most effective ways of helping all patients suffering from a mental illness.”

PRESCRIBING IS A CORE SKILL FOR GPS

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Prescribing is a core skill for GPs, and we will only prescribe medication to a patient after a full and frank discussion with them, considering their unique circumstances, and if we genuinely believe they will be of benefit to their patient.

“Antidepressants are no different, and it’s really important that increasing numbers of antidepressant prescriptions are not automatically seen as a bad thing, as research has shown they can be very effective drugs when used appropriately.

“It can be difficult to determine why prescribing rates fluctuate, these figures could indicate rising awareness of mental health conditions in society, and that more patients are feeling able to seek medical care for them – as well as demonstrating an improvement in the identification and diagnosis of mental health conditions.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “While antidepressants play an important role for some patients, an attitude of ‘a pill for every ill’ can mean not only do some people end up taking medicine they don’t need to, but taxpayer funding is spent on avoidable prescriptions.

“This is why the NHS is rolling out alternatives to medication, like 1,000 social prescribing link workers giving people care and advice tailored to their condition and, for mental health issues, the world’s most ambitious programme of talking therapies which can resolve common conditions like depression and anxiety.”

SO HOW CAN SOCIAL PRESCRIBING HELP FOR MILD MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS?

Mental health continues to be a significant public health issue with approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year.

While 23% of NHS activity is taken up by mental illness, mental health trusts have experienced continuous budget cuts, meaning waiting times for therapies is increasing and the number of medicines dispensed for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that 78% of GPs had prescribed an antidepressant in the previous three years, despite believing that an alternative treatment might have been more appropriate.

While both medication and psychological therapies have a role, particulary for moderate to severe cases of mental health, social prescribing provides a suitable alternative and further opportunity to respond effectively, and at an early stage, to mild symptoms of mental distress, as well as to initiate a more proactive approach to mental health promotion.

ANTIDEPRESSANTS SHOULD NOT BE A ‘GO-TO’ FOR FIRST INSTANCES

Mental health continues to be a significant public health issue with approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year.

While 23% of NHS activity is taken up by mental illness, mental health trusts have experienced continuous budget cuts, meaning waiting times for therapies is increasing and the number of medicines dispensed for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that 78% of GPs had prescribed an antidepressant in the previous three years, despite believing that an alternative treatment might have been more appropriate.

It also found that 66% had done so because a suitable alternative was not available, 62% because there was a waiting list for the suitable alternative, and 33% because the patient requested antidepressants. Of the GPs surveyed, 60% said they would prescribe antidepressants less frequently if other options were available to them (Mental Health Foundation 2005)

While both medication and psychological therapies have a role, social prescribing provides a suitable alternative and further opportunity to respond effectively, and at an early stage, to symptoms of mental distress, as well as to initiate a more proactive approach to mental health promotion.

SOCIAL PRESCRIBING IS ONE ROUTE TO PROVIDING PSYCHO-SOCIAL OR PRACTICAL SUPPORT FOR:

  • Children with ADHD, Autism or learning difficulties
  • Vulnerable and/or people who are at risk, e.g. low-income single mothers, recently bereaved people, the elderly, people with chronic physical illness
  • People with mild to moderate depression and anxiety or those who suffer from social isolation
  • People with long term and enduring mental health problems

In order to re-shape mental health services, social prescribing has been identified as a means of self-management, connecting individuals into non-medical sources of support to improve their health and wellbeing, such as debt, housing and employment advice as well as exercise programmes and green space.

HOW SOCIAL PRESCRIBING CAN ENSURE QUALITY OF LIFE AFTER MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS

Not only can social prescribing offer an alternative route to preventing and treating mild mental health issues, but it can also ensure that patients have a quality of life after diagnosis. Check out this guest blog from Director of Social Inclusion and Participation at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Michael Crilly, and find out how they’re using social prescribing to help people get back to a life which they are fulfilled by and supporting them to maintain their recovery.

prevention is better than cure

HERE ARE 10 WAYS SOCIAL PRESCRIBING CAN IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH IN COMMUNITIES AND OFFER SERVICES THAT MEAN MORE THAN MEDICATION:

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1. With up to 20% of GPs time estimated to be spent on dealing with social issues such as debt, housing and unemployment, social prescribing represents a way to manage mental health by taking a holistic, person-centred approach to wellbeing and addressing the wider determinants of health.

social prescribing mental health

2. Social prescribing supports people with mental health to access non clinical services as part of a package of care. As a result, individuals are connected to multiple sources of support for social issues related to their mental health which contributes to improved psychological and social wellbeing.

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3. In comparison to clinical prescriptions, social prescribing is a low cost, low complexity intervention which helps people to identify issues impacting on their mental health as well as signposting them to appropriate programmes and services which suit their needs and help them stay well.

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4. Social prescribing creates a shared ownership between the Link/Social Worker and the individual, in which they can co-create a suitable social prescription, giving the individual responsibility and accountability of their mental health.

mental health social prescribing

5. Social prescribing programmes and services such as Men’s Sheds and community gardening groups reduce social isolation as they provide opportunities for people to engage with their community, leading to increased inclusion, belonging and maximised social contact.

support

6. For vulnerable individuals or at-risk groups, taking part in community-based programmes and services enables them to manage their own health and wellbeing through increased prevention methods and supported self-care.

mental health social prescribing

7. Social prescribing also presents the opportunity for individuals to learn new skills such as cooking, painting and mindfulness, with evidence showing that continuing to learn throughout life can improve and maintain our mental wellbeing.

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8. Referring people into community programmes and non-clinical support can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, helping build a sense of purpose, and connecting with others.

social prescribing mental health

9. For people who are suffering from anxiety, are depressed or have other long-term health problems, social prescribing helps to tackle the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. By taking a preventative approach, social prescribing helps people stay healthy through lifestyle changes instead of turning to medication.

mental health social prescribing

10. Several social prescribing schemes have begun referring patients for charity work, such a scheme at the Imperial War Museum which offers “volunteering for veterans”. Not only do these services build confidence and reduce stress, but they offer people a sense of belonging and purpose which ultimately improves mental health.

GET IN TOUCH

With more organisations now adopting community and person-centred approaches to improving the mental health, we are pleased to see that the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England are working with VCSE organisations to deliver better health outcomes and support people, families and communities to manage their mental wellbeing. If you’d like to find out more about how you can embed social prescribing into your treatment strategies, get in touch, or request a 1-1 demo below.

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Jennifer and Leeann

Someone’s health and wellbeing can be affected by where they live, what they do for a living, their income or their early childhood background experiences. This in turn leads to some stark, and often avoidable health differences.

We founded Elemental to play an active part in halting health inequalities through the social prescribing movement. Our technology helps communities to be better connected, build resilience and bring real precision to the measurement of the impact of community investment.

We work with organisations that want to continue to invest in their communities but want to be much better at measuring impact and outcomes.

We believe this is a powerful route out of health inequality.

CEO & Co-Founder, Jennifer Neff
COO & Co-Founder, Leeann Monk-Ozgul

Jennifer and Leeann

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