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GPs back meditation for depression

By Lilian Anekwe

A new survey has found over 70% of GPs believe meditation techniques recommended by NICE could help patients with mental health problems, but only 1 in 5 are actually able to do so.

The report from the Mental Health Foundation published today highlights the lack of services providing mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT), despite it being approved by NICE in their guidance on depression five years ago.

They surveyed 250 GPs and found only 20% said they have access to MBCT courses for their patients, while 48% say they do not, and 32% were unaware of whether they could access to the service.

The NICE guidance on depression, which was first published in 2004, recommended MCBT for recurrent depression.

The report also highlighted a general need for alternatives to antidepressants. Nearly half of GPs polled – 47% –said they ‘very often' prescribe antidepressants.

But three-quarters said they had prescribed antidepressants to patients with recurrent depression whilst also believing that an alternative approach might have been more appropriate.

And just over two-thirds, or 67%, said they did so because there was a waiting list for the suitable alternative treatment and 57% because they didn't have sufficient access to other suitable treatments.

Dr Richard Byng, a GP in Plymouth with a special interest in mental health said: ‘There is a large number of patients in general practice who stay on long-term antidepressants, either because they're not quite better or scared of coming off. For that group mindfulness is a considerable support. It is evidence-based and can provide a kind of security for the patient in their ambivalence about whether to be on antidepressants.

‘It helps GPs who may think a person shouldn't be on antidepressants to have something very positive to offer – even CBT has not been used in this way. It's the only evidence-based strategy we have for people who have had a history of recurrent depression and need an alternative approach.'

Be mindful report GPs have backed the use of meditation to treat depression