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Norfolk still a pill popping hotspot

PUBLISHED: 17:30 01 August 2008 | UPDATED: 12:17 07 May 2010

Norfolk is still one of the places where the most anti-depressents are prescribed.

Norfolk is still one of the places where the most anti-depressents are prescribed.

More anti-depressants are still being prescribed in Norfolk than many other places in the country, despite health bosses pledging to cut down on the drugs.

More anti-depressants are still being prescribed in Norfolk than many other places in the country, despite health bosses pledging to cut down on the drugs.

New figures show the county is still in the top 10 of dishing out anti-depressants - with 632,000 items prescribed in 2006 to 2007.

Two years ago Norwich was revealed as the pill-popping capital of central England with £1.3m spent each year on anti-depressants, but NHS Norfolk (formerly Norfolk PCT) vowed to break the cycle of GPs giving out too many drugs to patients.

However, a new report, compiled by Brian Daniels from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, shows Norfolk is the second highest prescribing trust out of 10 questioned.

Each item costs about £7.88 so within a 12-month period the trust forked out £4,912,868 on drugs to control varying forms of depression across the county. This has been reduced from £6,677,214 in 2004/2005 but is still higher than many other trusts.

But Ian Small, deputy head of prescribing for NHS Norfolk, said: “A higher rate of prescribing anti depressants actually indicates the efficiency of health workers, particularly GPs, in recognising and diagnosing mental health issues.

“Within a county such as Norfolk, with a high number of ageing patients, and therefore a greater incidence of age related dementia and mental health conditions, prescribing numbers would tend to be higher.”

He explained GPs are directed to actively screen for depressive conditions, especially among patients with long term conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disorders.

He said GPs did take a holistic approach to treating mental health problems, advising patients on lifestyle changes that might also help to alleviate their depression when appropriate.

“Although anti depressants have been proven to work very effectively in many cases, that is not to say that alternative therapies should not play an important part, even alongside medication when necessary,” he said.

NHS Norfolk adheres to NICE guidelines which suggests in cases of potential mild depression GPs adopt a 'watch and wait' system.

In this case the GP might monitor a patient over a short period of time to see how they are coping, before even considering prescribing. NHS Norfolk also follows the Department of Health recommendation against prescribing to under 18s.

Has your depression been helped by an alternative remedy to pills? Call Evening News health reporter Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email sarah.hall2@archant.co.uk

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