Massive increase in antipsychotic prescriptions for community patients

Around 70 per cent more outpatient prescriptions of antipsychotic medication are being prescribed compared to 10 years ago.

The figures were revealed in a report on community mental healthcare by Professor Louis Appleby, the government’s national director for mental health.

In January a Healthcare Commission report revealed that more than a third of people diagnosed with psychosis are being given excessive levels of antipsychotic medication.

In 1997 around 950,000 prescriptions of antipsychotics were written out to psychiatric outpatients in England. The total is now around 1.6million.

While the prescribing of non-atypical antipsychotics has decreased over the last 10 years, the use of atypical antipsychotics has seen a massive increase of 44 times its 1997 level.

“Community care cannot exist without appropriate drug therapy,” wrote Appleby in the report.

But Appleby’s report does not indicate whether this prescription increase could be due to there now being more outpatient psychiatric patients compared to 10 years ago.

In his report, entitled Breaking Down Barriers, Appleby pledged to press on with an “unprecedented transformation” in services for patients.

He called for community care reform to continue and highlighted government mental health achievements over the last 10 years, including the establishment of more assertive outreach, crisis resolution and early intervention teams.

“Large increases in funding and in numbers of staff have created the essential foundation for changing the way that care is delivered,” he wrote.

But critics, pointing to cuts in mental health services, have said that Appleby is painting “too rosey a picture”.

Earlier this month Appleby also published a mental health progress report where he hightlighted that more than 13,000 extra mental health professionals had been recruited to the NHS since Labour came to power in 1997.

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