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IAPT 'does not cut antidepressant prescribing'

The Department of Health’s scheme to improve access to psychological therapies (IAPT) for patients with depression and anxiety disorders has had no effect on antidepressant prescribing, according to the findings of a new study.

The study into the DH’s IAPT scheme and rates of antidepressant prescribing between 2008 and 2011 in England showed that prescribing levels rose by 10% despite the introduction of IAPT.

Researchers from Imperial College, London found that IAPT, which in the NHS is largely based on offering patients access to cognitive behavioural therapy, concluded that ‘the implementation of IAPT had no significant impact on these increasing rates [of antidepressant prescribing].’

However, the study in this month’s edition of the British Journal of General Practice cautioned that the interpretation of antidepressant prescribing rates is ‘complex’.

‘Several recent factors may impact on diagnosis and management of depression. For example, QOF incentives following a diagnosis of depression may either increase rates or alternatively discourage GPs from applying a ‘label’ because of the workload involved.

‘In addition, waiting times for IAPT may necessitate intermediate action by GPs, such as prescribing antidepressants. As these results suggest that IAPT has not curbed the rise in antidepressant prescribing, it is important to re-explore factors that influence this prescribing,’ they said.

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Readers' comments (16)

  • It's not supposed to.

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) the financial crisis from 2008 onwards would have increased the number of people with socio-economic problems and precipitated more cases of depression (new or recurrent) , not to mention the way the government had been treating the bankers in contrast to ordinary people....
    (2) moderate to severe depression should be treated with both CBT and antidepressant anyway . By the time patients presented themselves to GP , many of them were already moderately depressed for the least.

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  • That's not what its for.What it does do is to provide a very useful listening service and stress relief in our today's increasingly disempowered society set adrift by the global forces of market capitalism.

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  • Prescribing for severe difficulties really in general. Why anybody thought it would reduce prescribing baffles me. GPs prescribing practices are independent variables (plural), not dependent ones.

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  • Many 'psychological' therapists have not dealt with their own dirty laundry and should not be allowed to 'transfer' this onto their patients behind closed doors for their own emotional gain. Plenty of evidence around to back this up. They should also learnt to read referral letters.

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  • I would urge patients referred to IAPT to ask for a personal care budget. Currently patients have no authority over their choice of the 'therapist' assigned to them. Psychological therapists are also self-regulated, whereas other NICE recommended therapies such as Art & music therapies are statutory regulated - and the therapists also actually have some talent.

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