Ten per cent of Irish adults are being prescribed antidepressants
Psychiatrist says antidepressants best used as part of combination treatment
Incoming IMO president Dr Peadar Gilligan said until the 30 per cent pay cut imposed on consultants was fully addressed “we will have challenges recruiting the almost 500 unfilled consultant posts”. Photograph: Shane O’Neill
Between 10 and 12 per cent of all Irish adults are being prescribed antidepressants, a leading psychiatrist has estimated.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in Killarney Dr Matthew Sadlier, consultant psychiatrist to the Dublin north city mental health service, said this was a guesstimate due to the lack of firm data regarding about 3 million private patients in Ireland.
He said about 390,000 out of about 1.6 million people covered by the medical card scheme were being prescribed antidepressants.
Dr Sadlier said anti-depressants did work and were a good safety net but were best used as part of combination therapy with occupational and psychological therapy.
However he said there were deficits in the system with delays of six to nine months in some cases to see these allied health professionals.
Dr Sadlier said there was a worldwide trend of increased prescribing of antidepressants.
“Is there over prescribing? It would be fair to say that there would certainly be diverse opinions on that.
“My own opinion is that we do not have enough evidence to make that claim at this stage.”
Dr Sadlier also said that an estimate of one in ten or adults in the population being on antidepressants would put Ireland behind Iceland and the United States but on a par with Britain.
Backed away from target
He said in Scotland after a massive increase antidepressant prescribing was observed, the parliament in Edinburgh carried out an investigation into this and set a target to reduce the level. However he said the Scottish parliament backed away from the target following a review.
“The big issue that this is showing is that mental health is a huge part of the health service. It is a huge demand and need that is out there to be met. The fact that it is only getting six per cent of the budget is shown by these statistics.”
Meanwhile doctors have become the latest group this week to criticise the Government over lower pay rates for staff recruited in recent years.
Incoming IMO president Dr Peadar Gilligan said until the 30 per cent pay cut imposed on consultants was fully addressed “we will have challenges recruiting the almost 500 unfilled consultant posts”.
“Until the FEMPI (financial emergency legislation) cuts, which have hit at the heart of the viability of general practice, are addressed we will have insufficient GPs to take up GMS (medical card) lists. Until non consultant hospital doctor contracts are honoured in their entirety we will have unfilled NCHD (non consultant hospital doctor) posts. Until specialists in public health are treated the same as other specialists we will have challenges in recruiting to this important specialty,” he said.
“Ireland has very significant expectations of its doctors in terms of knowledge, skills, expertise, compassion and caring. Doctors reasonably expect that their contracts will reflect this level of expectation. Since the founding of the trade union movement a guiding principle has been that people holding the same qualification, with the same expertise, having the same level of responsibility, doing the same job will be paid the same pay. New entrant doctors cannot continue to be treated unfairly,” he added.