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Anti-depressants And The Valleys

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 Anti-depressants And The Valleys

New figures show that more anti-depressant drugs are being prescribed to patients in the south Wales valleys than anywhere else in England and Wales according to the BBC news (07 04 09).

Further detailed was the fact that seven of the top ten areas for the drugs were in Wales, and the highest was Torfaen, with 104 prescriptions per 1,000 patients in January.

Advice from the National Guidance argues that patients should be offered both self-help and therapy. It is understood that the Welsh assembly Government have invested specifically in mental health services over recent years.

The figures highlighted and obtained from the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) by the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Mark Easton.

Torfaen - 104
Rhondda Cynon Taf - 97
Blaenau Gwent - 97
Merthyr Tydfil - 97
Neath Port Talbot - 94
Bridgend - 94
Caerphilly - 93
Blackpool - 92
Redcar & Cleveland - 89
Salford - 89

They showed that the rate of prescribing anti-depressants was just under one in 10 of patients in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil.

Bridgend, Caerphilly and, in north Wales, Denbighshire also have high rates of anti-depressant prescriptions handed out. The figures also showed the highest year-on-year increases in prescribing could be found in Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent. On average across Wales there has been a 3.15% increase in the prescribing of drugs like Prozac during 2008 despite national guidance advocating alternative treatments.

The national guidelines for England and Wales the guidelines state that in the first instance patients should be offered self help and psychological therapies. However, doctors in Wales said there was a lack of support services available for sufferers and they were often left with no option other than to prescribe drugs like Prozac.

Dr David Bailey, of the British Medical Association (BMA) Cymru, said patients often had to wait five or six months for therapy because of a lack of funds and skilled practitioners.

“In England some extra money has been promised by the Department of Health to pay for more counselling and specialist therapy that is due to roll out in Wales too,” he said.

“I know the assembly is trying finding money to improve the access to cognitive behavioural therapy (a specialised form of counselling) and counselling.

“But there is a skills shortage as well as a money issue. There just aren’t enough skilled practitioners able to provide these therapies in Wales.”

Dr Bailey said the higher prescription rates could reflect increasing rates of mild depression because of the current economic climate.

“It could be that the current economic climate is making mild depression more common because people are worried about their jobs and how they are going to make ends meet,” he said.

Tony Jewell, Chief medical officer argues that GPs were encouraged to consider alternatives to medication including referral to a counsellor. The assembly government was also trying to promote the importance of a healthy lifestyle, had funded a free bilingual 24/7 advice and information line, and was rolling out a mental health first aid programme, he said.

The assembly government said it had increased the number of mental health and occupational health professionals and those in training.

“An extra £100,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government is also being made available every year to improve support for GPs providing care for people experiencing mental health problems,” said a spokesperson.

“In 2005, we launched Book Prescription Wales which allows highly recommended self-help books to be prescribed by GPs… and other health providers.”

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