DOCTORS in Dorset have been prescribing more antidepressants over the past three years, according to NHS data.

GPs have called on the Government to increase the funding for psychotherapist services so less reliance is placed on such drugs.

Figures show that antidepressant prescriptions in the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group area went up by 17 per cent from 2014-15 to 2017-18, the latest period with updated data.

Over that period, the number of registered patients in the area hardly varied, rising by 2.1 per cent.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the trend should not automatically be seen as a bad thing and may indicate that "more patients feel able to disclose mental health problems".

She added: "Antidepressants are of proven benefit for many patients, but no patient wants to be reliant on any medication long-term, and where possible we will explore alternatives, such as talking therapies.

"However, there is a severe lack of these services in the community.

"When GPs do prescribe antidepressants, it will have been after a full and frank discussion with the patients based on their unique circumstance.

"However, there is also the issue that the standard 10-minute GP consultation is increasingly inadequate to properly deliver care to patients with complex health needs."

From April 2017 to March 2018, medical services in Dorset prescribed antidepressants 970,631 times, 141,623 more than three years prior.

These figures account for the total number of items prescribed by GPs in the NHS, so some will have been issued for the same patient.

The increase was in line with than the average for England, which rose by 18 per cent since 2014-15.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2015 suggested the UK had the fourth-most medicated population in Europe for antidepressants, behind only Portugal, Lithuania and Malta.

Stephen Buckley, of mental health charity Mind, said: "Antidepressants can be effective for some but aren’t the answer for everyone, especially those with mild depression. They also come with potential adverse side effects.

"The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme has helped more people get talking therapies.

"But in some parts of the country, people are facing long waits.

"It’s possible that those waiting for therapy could be prescribed antidepressants instead or in the interim. Giving people a choice of treatments is important."

An NHS England spokesman said: “The NHS is significantly improving mental health treatment as part of an ambitious long-term plan, to increase access to treatments like cognitive behaviour therapy and other talking therapies, which means clinicians and patients working together to identify the most appropriate care plan.”