Figures released yesterday reveal that there is a clear division between the North and South of England in terms of prescriptions of anti-depressants.
The stark contrast was originally reported by the BBC’s Mark Easton in 2009, showing that Primary Care Trusts in the North give out more anti-depressants per thousand patients. The new reports show that overall prescriptions in England and Wales are on the rise. Currently there are 46.7 million prescriptions issued by health services in a year, up 9.1% on last year. Some have attributed the figures to the increase in ‘items’ being given out – GPs saying that smaller doses are being given out more often. However, the figures still reveal that Health Care Trusts have been spending around £1 million more a week on anti-depressant prescriptions. This rise will undoubtedly be interpreted as a result of the prolonged economic downturn, the North traditionally being perceived as suffering from unemployment and economic depravity more acutely than London and the South. The BBC have indeed suggested that these statistics reveal a contrast between North and South England, between depression and economic circumstance. However, as last weeks ‘well-being’ figures showed, York and the Unitary Authority areas have a very high rate of life satisfaction, most people rating their ‘satisfaction’ as 7-10. Indeed, York itself has a higher perceived standard of living than most other places in the wider historic county of Yorkshire. Yesterday’s statistics show that Blackpool and surrounding towns has the highest rate of prescriptions for anti-depressants in England and Wales, a place that most people would think to be a far cry from York.
The real worrying role that statistics like these can play is that they can bundle vastly different areas of the country, from urban, suburban and countryside, into one Health Authority report. Though more worryingly the figures reveal that GPs are going against the initiative to reduce the number of anti-depressants used in favour of alternative measures. Clearly the average general practitioner is not ‘on side’ when it comes to alternative therapies. How much these insights into the workings of the mental health profession reflect an overall trend is difficult to tell, whether this is a blip or something more sustained is unclear.