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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 00:01 GMT
Drugs 'foisted on mentally ill'
GP consultation
Minds says GPs are "too quick to offer drugs"
Too many people who consult their GP over problems with their mental health are offered medication as the only option, say campaigners.

The mental health charity Mind says NHS mental health services must offer people more choice.

Doctors are not always aware of what alternatives to medication might be useful

Richard Brook,
It says the over-reliance on medication is illustrated by the fact that the number of prescriptions for antidepressants has more than doubled over the last ten years.

In addition, almost 50% of GP practices do not have a counselling service attached.

Mind is to publish a full survey examining the issue in the summer. Interim results indicate:

  • 98% of respondents visiting their GP for mental health problems were prescribed medication, despite the fact that less than one in five had specifically asked for it
  • More than half (54%) of respondents felt they had not been given enough choice
  • Of those who had tried alternative treatments, more than one in three had to take the initiative and ask for it - and often pay for it - themselves
  • Almost 10% of all respondents had been unable to access treatments because waiting lists were too long
The survey found that that the top five alternatives to medication rated by respondents were: counselling, group therapy, art/music/drama therapy, psychotherapy and aromatherapy.

Model plan

Mind's model for greater choice
Greater involvement of patients in care decisions
Effective psychological therapies should be available
Complementary therapies should be available
More information about medication for patients
Exercise on prescription an option
Treatment should take account of culture and lifestyle
Mind is to send GPs details of what it would like to see offered by primary care.

Chief executive Richard Brook said: "Our experience shows us that different people get the best results from a whole range of treatments.

"Unfortunately, the reality is that doctors are not always aware of what alternatives to medication might be useful for dealing with mental health problems, or do not have access to them.

"As the new Primary Care Trusts start to make decisions about what to make available, we want to point out that there are a whole host of treatments that can be reasonably offered, which can have a positive impact on their patients' mental health."

Health Minister Jacqui Smith welcomed the Mind campaign.

She said: "Patients are the most important people in the health service. However, it doesn't always appear that way.

"The NHS Plan makes clear our wish to widen patient choice in the NHS.

"Patients tell us that they are very interested in complementary and alternative therapies, and demand for these treatments alongside psychological therapies and counselling is high."

See also:

09 Jul 01 | Health
Boost for mental health care
04 Oct 01 | Health
Mental problems 'hit one in four'
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