Antidepressant prescribing rising faster than any other drug

Almost 4m more antidepressants were prescribed in the community in 2016 over the year before, according to data published by NHS Digital.

Prescription items for antidepressants showed the greatest numerical rise among all drugs types for the fourth consecutive year, the Prescriptions dispensed in the community 2006-2016 report shows.

Antidepressants increased by 3.7m items in 2016 – a 6% rise on 2015 – bringing total items prescribed up to 64.7m for the year.

The RCGP said GPs were always careful when prescribing antibiotics and suggested the figures could also indicate that mental ill health is now better recognised and diagnosed.

The latest prescribing figures mean the number of antidepressant items has more than doubled over the last decade, from 33.7m back in 2006.

The data show over 1.1bn prescription items across all types were dispensed in 2016, a 2% increase over the year before.

This brought the total spend to £9.2bn – which was actually a 0.7% decrease compared to the spend in 2015.

Antidepressant prescribing

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘While at face value the rise might seem alarming, it could also be indicative of better identification and diagnosis of mental health conditions across healthcare – and reducing stigma associated with mental health in society, leading to more people with mental health conditions seeking medical assistance.

‘Both would be positive steps forward as we strive for parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

‘Antidepressants can be effective drugs when used appropriately and they do help a lot of patients. Nevertheless, no doctor wants their patients to be reliant on medication, and where possible we will always explore alternative treatments, such as talking therapies – but there is a severe lack of these services available in the community, where they could be of great benefit to patients.

‘We need more of these services in the community and we need all GPs to have better, quicker access to them.

‘NHS England's GP Forward View pledged for every GP practice to have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists. We need this, and its other promises – including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs – to be delivered as a matter of urgency, so that we can continue to provide the best possible mental healthcare to our patients.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Medical examiners to scrutinise deaths in community settings

The MDU's Dr Kathryn Leask explains how the expansion of the medical examiner system...

Person receiving a COVID-19 booster

COVID-19 booster campaign to start on 5 September, NHS England says

The COVID-19 booster programme will begin in care homes and for housebound patients...

GP consulting room

Nine in ten GPs fear their practice will struggle to cope this winter

Nearly nine in ten GPs fear that their practice will struggle to cope this winter,...

BMA sign

BMA elects new deputy chair of England GP committee and chair of Scottish council

Dr David Wrigley has been elected as new deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee in...

UK money

Almost half of practices say income from private fees has fallen in past year

Almost half of GP practices have seen their income from private and professional...

COVID-19 vaccination centre

BMA raises 'serious concerns' about GP workload and funding for autumn COVID boosters

The BMA has raised 'serious concerns' about the workload implications of this autumn's...