Depression 'fastest growing condition' as GPs record 470,000 new cases in 2015/16

GPs recorded an additional 470,000 patients with depression through the QOF last year, a 13% rise on the year before, outpacing the rises in obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

Prevalence of depression was the fastest rising for any condition tracked by the QOF in England, analysis by GPonline reveals, with GPs recording more than 470,000 additional patients with the condition in 2015/16 – a 13% increase.

The total number of patients over the age of 18 with recorded depression now stands at 3.8m people, or 8.3% of the population, QOF prevalence data for 2015/16 published by NHS Digital shows.

GP leaders said the data show patients are becoming more willing to talk about mental health with their GP, but warned that the rise is accompanied by a ‘huge increase’ in workload for practices.

Disease prevalence

Depression is now the third most prevalent condition behind hypertension (13.8%) and obesity (9.5%) – and ahead of diabetes (6.5%).

Rates of depression vary around the country, with those in the north of England facing the highest prevalence (9.2%), followed by the Midlands and east (8.5%), the south (8.3%) and London (6.0%). Lancashire comes in as the highest region, at 10.3% prevalence.

The GPonline analysis comes as the RCGP and mental health charity Mind called for mental health to form a larger part of GP training, after research showed fewer than half of trainees undertake mental health placements.

The dataset shows that, across the 7,619 practices in England who are signed up to the QOF, the average achievement score was 532.9 points out of the total 559 available.

GP QOF scores

Some 640 practices achieved the full maximum points, a significant increase on 2014/15, during which 448 (30% fewer) practices achieved the maximum. The average exception rate was 5.7% across all relevant indicators

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘These figures reflect the increased willingness of people to talk about their mental health problems and to seek help from their GPs.

‘But it's also a sign of the huge increase in workload practices are having to cope with, particularly when in many areas the waiting times to access CBT and other therapies are unacceptably long, leaving practices and patients without the support they need.’

Last month, GP leaders backed a comment from NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that the QOF had reached the end of its useful life.

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