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)
Tony Kendrick, Beth Stuart, Colin Newell, Adam W.A. Geraghty, Michael Moore
Background Depression may be increasing, particularly since the economic recession. Introduction of quality outcomes framework (QOF) performance indicators may have altered GP recording of depression. Methods Time trend analyses of GP recording of depression before and after the recession (from April 2008), and the QOF (from April 2006) were conducted on anonymised consultation data from 142 English practices contributing to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, April 2003–March 2013. Results 293,596 patients had computer codes for depressive diagnoses or symptoms in the 10 years. Prevalence of depression codes fell from 44.6 (95% CI 44.2, 45.0) per 1000 person years at risk (PYAR) in 2003/2004 to 38.0 (37.7, 38.3) in 2008/2009, rising to 39.5 (39.2, 39.9) in 2012/2013. Incidence of first-ever depression codes fell from 11.9 (95% CI 11.7, 12.1) per 1000 PYAR in 2003/2004 to 9.5 (9.3, 9.7) in 2008/2009, rising to 10.0 (9.8, 10.2) in 2012/1203. Prevalence increased in men but not women following the recession, associated with increased unemployment. Following introduction of the QOF, GPs used more non-QOF-qualifying symptom or other codes than QOF-qualifying diagnostic codes for new episodes. Limitations Clinical data recording is probably incomplete. Participating practices were relatively large and not representative across English regions. Conclusions Rates of recorded depression in English general practices were falling prior to the economic recession but increased again subsequently, among men, associated with increased unemployment. GPs responded to the QOF by switching from diagnostic to symptom codes, removing most depressed patients from the denominator for measuring GP performance in assessing depression.