Changing the conversation about health

Lockdown depression: ‘A GP who has time to engage properly with a patient can reduce the need for a referral’

The rise in the number of people being referred for depression – particularly during lockdown – could be directly linked to a reduced number of GPs, the College of Medicine’s Chair has said.

Depression rates continue to rise in the UK, with data from NHS Digital, published in The Lancet, showing that 70.9 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written in England in 2018, almost double the figure prescribed in 2008.

Lockdown mental health crisis: A Guardian investigation found that anti-depressant prescriptions in the three months to September 2020 were at an all time high (Picture credit: Pixabay/PTumisu)

Dr Michael Dixon, who has spent decades working as a general practitioner in Devon, told the Independent in an article about increases in depression caused by lockdowns since March 2019, that a GP who has the time to engage properly with patients can reduce their chance of needing to be referred on.


He said: “A GP with time and who knows their patients well can probably obviate up to a half of referrals elsewhere using their holistic therapeutic skills.

Dr Dixon: ‘A GP with time and who knows their patients well can probably obviate up to a half of referrals…’

“The discrepancy between an increasing incidence of depression and a reducing GP workforce makes this increasingly less possible and reflects years of neglect of our generalist role.”

In early January, the Guardian published results of an investigation that found anti-depressants had been prescribed to more than six million people in June, July and August last year, the highest numbers on record for a three-month period.

Deputy campaigns director at mental health charity Rethink, Lucy Schonegevel, told the newspaper that there was a “big risk of anti-depressants being prescribed with no support”, saying that pills should go ‘hand in hand’ with therapy.