This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Number of patients presenting with depression halves in ten years while anti-depressant prescriptions increase

The number of patients seeing their GPs for depression has halved in the last ten years, according to official Scottish health statistics.

The figures – released by NHS Scotland last month – show there were only 420,000 consultations for depression last year compared with 850,000 in 2003.

But prescriptions for depression have increased sharply in the same period from 3.4 million items in 2003 to 5.2 million last year, an analysis of the figures by the Scottish Conservatives reveal.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw called for an urgent explanation over what he said was a ‘glaring gulf’ in how to care for people living with depression.

He said: ‘If there are so many fewer GP consultations, where are the tens of thousands extra people suffering from depression getting their medication from?’

‘We cannot have a situation where people are being parked on this medication, and robbed of any chance of a full recovery.’

Number of consultations in relation to depression in the last 10 years with a GP or practice nurse

2003/4 – 851,160

2004/5 – 751,770

2005/6 – 678,450

2006/7 – 507,980

2007/8 – 403,230

2008/9 – 373,250

2009/10 – 399,450

2010/11 – 402/520

2011/12 – 441,180

2012/13 – 420,060



Number of antidepressant items prescribed:

2003/4 – 3,402,223

2004/5 – 3,477,630

2005/6 – 3,529, 927

2006/7 – 3,654,592

2007/8 – 3,826,746

2008/9 – 4,005,497

2009/10 – 4,308,344

2010/11 – 4,659,181

2011/12 – 5,011,269

2012/13 – 5,218,051


Readers' comments (6)

  • Vinci Ho

    The answer : tick box culture has taken away 'quality time' from GPs to spend on depressed patients. The temptation of using SSRIs for instance is there to finish the consultation when time runs out. GPs have to deal with so much complex problems and work from secondary care ,hence number of appointments available to these depressed patients is also diluted....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have a sneaking suspicion that the sudden decrease in depression is more about practice coding than a feeling of general well being across the border. Maybe the use of Low Mood diagnoses could be looked at....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This really is not rocket science is it? As Peter McEvedy implies above, if we as GP's code our patient with depression we are then required to do biopsychosocial assessments, or previously PHQ-9's, code them and review them within rather restricted and arbitrary timescales. As we know that this will not add a jot of quality to our patient's treatment, we choose not to code them, but we do prescribe SSRI's where that is indicated and appropriate.

    If NHS Scotland choose to read anything into these statistics then they need shooting!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • SSRI are the treatment of anxiety/ OCD/ menopause/ migrain / chronic pain / ibs and others.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dr Mcevedy is obviously correct!
    Nothing to see here, move along!
    Unintended consequences of ill-thought out contract targets!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The only guarantee you get by seeing a psychiatrist is that you will come away with a prescription for medication.

    Nobody looks at the route cause, nobody seems to care and medication is supposed to be the 'be all end all'!

    It is time mental health patients should be able to make an appointment to see a psychiatrist in the same way that they do see a GP.

    Mental health patients do not become 'sick by appointment' yet they get appointments when they feeling reasonably well, but cannot get one when they are very unwell.

    GP's provide a much better service that mental health care services, they appear to be more empathetic and demonstrate care and kindness. Mental health services make patients feel they are on a conveyor belt and a a bit of a nuisance.

    I do a lot of work with mental health patients and feel what they really need is a little more care and kindness, a biot of understanding and to be made to feel valued, that works so much better than yet another script!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say