Better access to alternative mental health treatments for all patients urgently needed, says College

Publication date: 12 February 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a new study in the BJGP about depression in older people.

She said: "Regardless of a patient's age, depression can be incredibly distressing and debilitating, and research has shown that for many adult patients, antidepressants can be effective drugs at alleviating its symptoms.

"GPs are highly-trained to prescribe and will only ever recommend antidepressants after a full and frank discussion with the patient sitting in front of us, based on their individual circumstances, and if we genuinely believe they will help them.

"Whilst antidepressants can be effective drugs, we know that in general patients don't want to be on long-term medication – and GPs don't want that, either. We will always try to explore alternative therapies, such as CBT and talking therapies, but access to these therapies in the community is patchy across the country – and there is also a lack of variety, to allow us to match these services to the specific needs of our patients.

"We do know that for many older patients, the underlying reasons for them visiting their GP might not be medical – they might be feeling lonely or be socially isolated. In these cases, it's important that we have access to 'social prescribing' schemes to link these patients with an appropriate class or group in the community, that can have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing, and we welcome the focus on this in the NHS long term plan.

"It can take a lot of courage to seek help for depression and other mental health problems, no matter what age someone is, and patients who do so should be able to get the care they need and deserve, close to home, where they need it most.

"NHS England has promised that every GP practice in England will have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists by 2021 – we need this, and the other pledges of more investment in general practice and more GPs made in the GP Forward View and NHS long term plan delivered as a matter of urgency."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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