Call for QOF to help people with long-term depression

Introducing QOF targets for long-term depression would improve management of the condition and help commissioners plan services, an expert has said.

QOF targets for long-term depression would increase its priority in care plans
QOF targets for long-term depression would increase its priority in care plans

Specialist pharmacist and academic Chris Johnson of NHS Glasgow and Clyde said the move could de-stigmatise mental health and give it more priority in local care plans. But he said indicators should avoid using strict severity rating scales and instead focus on the overall needs of the patient.

Research led by Mr Johnson recently found that a quarter of patients taking long-term antidepressants may be on the wrong dose.

Existing QOF indicators focus only on assessing severity of depression following a new diagnosis. NICE has approved new depression indicators that could enter QOF in April, but these do not address long-term management.

Mr Johnson said: 'Inclusion in QOF would acknowledge that common mental health problems are as important as diabetes and primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, and may help to de-stigmatise mental health issues.'

He said this would also boost the number of people with Read codes for depression or anxiety by 40-80%. This ‘will help to further quantify the true number of people living with chronic illness and may allow PCTs and health boards to plan and develop services to support this group of people', he said.

West Midlands mental health GPSI Dr Ian Walton, chairman of the Primary Care and Mental Health Education (PRIMHE) group, said GPs needed more support to improve depression management and ensure patients are prescribed correct doses. 'If we really want to make a difference in primary care for depression we would need to build up primary care mental health and wellbeing services,' he said.

'I don’t think that asking GPs to do more under the guise of QOF points without support is likely to improve compliance greatly.'

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