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In a recent study, researchers at the University of Southampton have explored the effects of the economic recession, NICE guidelines, and the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) to find out how the management of depression has changed since 2006.

Millions of anti-depressants are prescribed every year and more than half of people taking them have been doing so for two years or more. How do patients know that it is the right time to stop? Withdrawal symptoms are often confused with a return of the original depression so careful tapering of medication is crucial. 

Tony Kendrick, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Southampton discusses the rise in long-term antidepressant treatment and the need for support to help people come off unnecessary long-term treatment in an interview on BBC Radio 4 Inside Health on 8 March. His interview can be found 4.51 minutes into the broadcast.

Ever since the early 1990s, the number of antidepressant prescriptions being given to patients has increased year on year. Our research looked at three possible reasons for this. Were we diagnosing more and more people over time, or having diagnosed them, were we treating a larger proportion of them with antidepressants, or was each person diagnosed being treated for longer, resulting in more prescriptions per patient. The research indicated that it is largely the third reason: the number of prescriptions given to patients for antidepressants has doubled over a ten year period."
- Professor Tony Kendrick

" In particular we wanted to see whether there is evidence that GPs’ use of questionnaires to measure patients’ symptoms of depression, seemed to make a difference to the care of patients, including the prescribing of antidepressants but also referrals for psychological (talking) therapies and psychiatric treatment." said Tony.

The results have helped develop the understanding around the treatment of depression and how future NICE guidelines and changes to the QOF might encourage general practices to develop their assessment and treatment of depression in ways which can improve outcomes for patients.

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