Date Published: 16 April 2007

Survey suggests GP Contract compromises depression sufferers

Leading mental health charities Depression Alliance and SANE launch report proposing practical solutions for improving diagnosis and care

National Depression Awareness Week, April 16-23 2007:
The Now We’re Talking ! report details new survey results exposing considerable gaps in the care provided for people with depression which could be addressed by improvements to the current GP contract.

Last year, Depression Alliance and SANE welcomed the recognition of depression within the GP contract (specifically the Quality and Outcomes Framework - the national system of remuneration governing the care provided by general practitioners) and called for a broadening of the contract. New survey results identify many inadequacies in the diagnosis and management of depression that it is believed revisions in the contract could address - especially in the area of ongoing care.

Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance commented:

This survey shows quite clearly that the GP contract is vital in helping the millions of people in the UK diagnosed with depression on the road to recovery. On average, a GP sees one person with depression in every surgery and changes in the contract will go a long way to enabling GPs to make real progress tackling this serious mental illness.

Drawing on the personal experiences of over 450 people living with depression and developed in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary healthcare professional advisory committee, the report highlights changes that could be made to the GP contract that would have a positive impact on all stages of the condition’s management: during diagnosis, at the initiation of treatment and throughout ongoing care.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of SANE continues:

" Our evidence shows that people with depression are waiting up to a year to receive a diagnosis. The longer a person goes without treatment, the more entrenched their feelings of hopelessness and despair can become - suffering which can often be unnecessary as two thirds of those with the condition can recover. That is why the breakdown in negotiations between NHS Employers and the General Practitioners Committee should not influence the early detection of depression and the provision of counselling, medication or both."


Key Survey Highlights

Of those surveyed (all of whom have a diagnosis of depression):

Report Recommendation

The recommendation outlined in the report for improving the management pathway for people with depression is that the contract should include indicators within the following key areas, encouraging GPs to:

People with depression are likely to suffer from a range of other co-morbidities such as high blood pressure (14%), chronic painful conditions (12) and arthritis (11).

Look for depression in a wider range of disease areas, in addition to diabetes and heart disease.

Over a third (38%) said a more rapid diagnosis would be an important improvement in depression management.

Take into account the broad range of psychological symptoms (for example, low mood, loss of interest, poor concentration) and somatic symptoms (such as insomnia, aches and pains and constipation) associated with depression when considering an initial diagnosis.

Many (41%) felt that their preferred treatment option was not adequately discussed or considered by their GP.

Involve their patients when making treatment decisions.

Over half of respondents (58%) called for more ongoing support from GPs.

Over half of those treated with an antidepressant stopped taking it before the end of the course.

Identify, manage and provide ongoing care for those with depression.

Provide information for patients on their treatment to support adherence.


Source: SANE, UK.

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