NHS Business Services Authority’s (NHSBSA) latest statistics ‘Medicines used in Mental Health – England Quarterly Summary’ have been released today (10/12/2020), showing that 19.6 million antidepressant drugs were prescribed between July and September 2020.
This was a 2% increase from 19.2 million items (400,000) in the previous quarter, and a 4% increase from 18.9 million items (700,000) when compared with the same quarter last year.
The official annual 2019/20 statistical release was launched in September 2020 and includes the use of these specific medicines by age and gender breakdown with patient counts at a national level. (Data on the number and net ingredient cost of prescription items has been made available before via the English Prescribing Dataset on NHSBSA’s Open Data Portal).
Five main groups of medicines are covered by the publication: Hypnotics and anxiolytics (used to treat insomnia and anxiety); antidepressants; drugs for dementia; drugs used in psychoses and related disorders; and central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The data is based on community prescribing and excludes hospitals and prisons.
Other key findings during this summary period, July – September 2020:
- Prescribing of drugs for dementia continued to show a downward trend. One million items of drugs for dementia were prescribed between July and September 2020. This was a 5% decrease from same quarter last year, and over a 3% decrease from 1.04 million items in the previous quarter.
- All of the drug groups in this publication have shown greater levels of variation in monthly prescribing since the introduction of measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic on 23 March 2020.
- All of the drug groups observed a significant decrease in monthly prescribing between July and August 2020, which has not been typically observed in previous years.
Key findings April to June 2020:
- The number of prescriptions for medicines used in mental health fluctuated since March 2020, following lockdown restrictions being announced by the UK government on 23 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- Four of the five drug groups used in these statistics saw a fall in levels of prescribing in Q1 2020/21 compared to the previous quarter. Drugs used in psychoses and related disorders was the only group to see an increase.
These medicines are classified by their main usage. However, they can sometimes be prescribed for other reasons. For example, some antidepressants can be used to treat people suffering from chronic primary pain. We don’t capture this at NHSBSA during processing, and so can’t determine the reason that a prescription was issued. Due to this, these statistics may not give a fully accurate estimation of the population receiving treatment for a specific mental health condition. Drug therapy is just one way that mental health conditions can be treated. These statistics do not tell us how many patients access other forms of treatment, such as psychological therapy