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The University of Southampton's Professor Tony Kendrick spoke to BBC Five about his six year study on the long term use of antidepressants.

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The programme reported that 63 and a half million prescriptions were issued for the drugs - up four million on the year before and double the number a decade ago. "There are also concerns that people are having to wait longer to access 'talking therapies' which can be used as well as or instead of antidepressants. The Department of Health says there's no evidence to suggest the rise in use of antidepressant medicines is linked to waiting times in talking therapies.They say they're exceeding the waiting times standard for this kind of treatment with almost 90% of people seen within 6 weeks."

In England, the average time that people spend taking antidepressants is now two years, half have been on them longer than that... we are finding that we are not diagnosing a lot more people even though the number has increased slightly since the recession. The reason for the rise of antidepressant use is that we are keeping people on them for longer and longer. The pressure on the NHS and GP appointments at the moment means that people aren't being reviewed or monitored when they do withdraw medication." - Professor Tony Kendrick

Professor Kendrick's research is funded by the  NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research: REviewing long-term anti-Depressant Use by Careful monitoring of Everyday practice (REDUCE). It was informed by School funded research that explored the effects of the economic recession, NICE guidelines, and the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) in an investigation on how GP management of depression has changed since 2006.

The outcomes of the SPCR research include:

Long-term antidepressant treatment: time for a review?

Changes in rates of recorded depression in English primary care 2003–2013: Time trend analyses of effects of the economic recession, and the GP contract quality outcomes framework (QOF)

Management of depression in UK general practice in relation to scores on depression severity questionnaires: analysis of medical record data

The new REDUCE programme aims to identify safe, reliable and value for money ways of helping patients withdraw from long-term antidepressants, where this is appropriate. In addition to GP, nurse and mental health worker support, individually tailored support through the Internet will be provided for patients, available around the clock, together with ‘buddying’ support from people who have previously come off antidepressants. 

The interview can be heard 22.34 minutes and Prof Tony Kendrick's piece at 25.30 minutes in at BBC Radio 5 live Investigates.