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Survey exposes GP frustration at dire access to depression services

GPs have inundated Pulse with stories of the difficulties they face dealing with depression in the face of dire access to local services.

Pulse's survey of 1,300 GPs found access to many evidence-based interventions was poor or non-existent.

Some 59 per cent rated local access to CBT as poor and 19 per cent as non-existent, while for psychotherapy 58 and 17 per cent did so respectively.

More than half of GPs said they had no access to bibliotherapy and 35 per cent said interpersonal therapy was not provided in their area.

Overall, 58 per cent of GPs said they were dissatisfied and 20 per cent strongly dissatisfied with their local services.

A parallel survey of 170 primary care organisations found only 35 per cent provided interpersonal therapy in primary care, 37 per cent computerised CBT and 28 per cent psycho-therapy.

Bibliotherapy, group work and exercise referral were only patchily provided.

Even CBT was not provided by all PCOs, with 22 per cent having no primary care access.

GPs told Pulse their adult patients were waiting an average of five months for assessment and treatment in community mental health teams, and six-and-a-half months before they were treated in secondary care.

Children and adolescents face particular difficulties in accessing treatment. GPs said under-18s had to wait eight months for assessment and treatment by the child and adolescent mental health service, and 10 months to see a child psychiatrist.

The access crisis meant four-fifths of GPs said they were unable to implement NICE guidelines which recommend talk- ing therapies first-line in mild depression.

Some 58 per cent said they were often forced to prescribe antidepressants by long waits and 35 per cent that they sometimes had to do so.

Dr Heather Potter, a GP in Neath, said: 'There needs to be a willingness by PCOs to recognise the huge workload held in primary care.

'In adolescents it's a particular problem. It takes tremendous courage to seek help ­ then they get sat on a waiting list.'

Experts in depression have demanded new mental health workers to relieve the intense pressure on GPs.

Dr Ian Walton, chair of Primary Care Mental Health and Education and a GPSI in mental health in Tipton, West Midlands, said: 'We need investment and the thing that the Government is very bad at ­ it needs to ask us what we need. We need effective [provision] and a broad range of services.'

Further results from the Pulse investigation will be published next week.

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