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Panic attack patients worse off with GP care

Patients who suffer panic attacks are far more likely to find their condition getting worse over time if they are cared for by a GP rather than an occupational therapist, according to Government research.

The randomised controlled trial, which appeared on the Department of Health's website earlier this month, examined anxiety over 10 months in 67 patients aged 18 to 65 with a recent history of attacks.

Some 31 patients received up to 10 occupational therapy sessions involving lifestyle review, education and monitoring. A further 36 received standard GP care. Where possible, GPs kept medication levels stable throughout the trial.

Anxiety was assessed using the Beck Anxiety Inventory at the start of the trial, after 20 weeks and after 10 months.

At both 20 weeks and 10 months, 70 per cent of patients given occupational therapy experienced an improvement of nine or more BAI points compared with 50 per cent in those given GP care, researchers from the University of East Anglia school of medicine, health policy and practice found.

'Lifestyle intervention shows both a cost saving and a clinical benefit compared with routine GP care,' said study leader Rod Lamber, researcher in preventive primary mental health care at the university.

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