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08-10-2012 | Article

Depression – are we getting it right?

GPs at the front line have to make do with the resources that they have at their disposal. We live in an era where not only is there a finite healthcare budget, but also downward pressure on that budget. In amongst all this, GPs have to cope with demands from patients, self-help groups, professional societies and national guidelines, as well as the scrutiny of national, local and online media, to improve the lot provided to a given disease. Of course, GPs should always be under the microscope and expect such pressures, even if the solutions are not always directly under our control.

A condition that highlights the demands that a GP may face to keep improving care is depression. According to a recent univadis GP News service article, one in 10 people in Europe has taken time off work because of depression (click here). The article adds another graphic example of just how common depression is: "The Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit (IDEA) poll of over 7,000 people also found that 20% of respondents had received a diagnosis of depression at some point, with the highest rate - 26% - recorded in Great Britain."

So what can we do about it? Well, we can and do prescribe antidepressants, although there have been accusations in the past that we as healthcare professionals have either overused or underused them (click here).

An alternative or additional avenue of treatment is to use psychological therapies, but these can sometimes be difficult to access. Another article in the univadis GP News this week described research on access to such treatments (click here). It reports that "cognitive behavioural therapy given over the telephone is as effective as when given face-to-face, according to UK researchers". Even better, the telephone approach is cheaper, according to the same article.

Such research can help us to stride forward and, although we will continue to be criticised, that should spur us on to provide even better and more cost effective services - not only for depression and but for all conditions. We can hope that one day we will be able to satisfy all our critics and all our patients, but that day may never arrive!

Best wishes,

Harry

Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief univadis

By Dr Harry Brown