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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.