Some people reporting to their doctor with depression symptoms will be given three months structured exercise programmes to carry out at a local gym, and it is understood some may be given free or discounted rates at facilities to encourage the process.
A list of self-help books will also be compiled, with GPs recommending local libraries where these can be found, while six-week stress management classes will also be looked at. It is only after these methods are found not to work that tablets will be prescribed for certain patients.
One of the first practices to implement the programme as part of NHS Lothian’s “integrated care pathway” will be the Pentlands Medical Centre in Currie. Dr John Gordon is the lead GP for mental health who has links with the practice. He said: “It is important that GPs have access to a range of effective treatments for patients who are experiencing depression.”The integrated care pathway provides us with a way of delivering a whole range of treatments in a structured way that aims to match the treatment to the patient’s level of need.”
Statistics have suggested that last year around 35,000 people in the Capital received an anti-depressant or anxiety prescription, roughly a 12th of the population – a huge rise of 10,000 in a decade. The news split opinions, with some experts saying it showed very few people were slipping through the net when it came to depression and getting appropriate care, although charities warned doctors were becoming too reliant on tablets when more thorough care was needed.
Similar schemes already up and running in the Lothians are aimed at helping new mothers suffering from post-natal depression. The Evening News revealed in December how women referred by their GP received free swimming and fitness classes, with organisations praising the scheme, saying it was key to recovery. Clinical standards facilitator for mental health at NHS Lothian Richard Murray said: “The evaluation of this initial implementation is important. We want to learn what works well, what effect it has on prescribing and what changes are needed so we can roll it out to other practices.”
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “It is to be welcomed because you can’t just throw tablets at everyone, but finding the source of the problem is key. “Depression can be very dark and brought on by a range of things, and telling someone to go for a walk or read a book isn’t always going to solve the problem. Sometimes people just need someone to talk to and counsellors should be made available for those who need to talk.