NEW figures have shown more than 200 prescriptions for anti-depressants were handed out per 1,000 people in East Lancashire last year.

The statistics obtained by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation’s QualityWatch programme found that between October and December last year 201 prescriptions were prescribed for every 1,000 people in Blackburn and Darwen.

In East Lancashire Primary Care Trust the figure was 213.

The report could not determine whether the figures were based on the same people receiving more medication.

Or whether they reflected an increase in the number of people who were receiving anti-depressants.

The figures have been branded ‘disturbing and worrying’ by the Lancashire Telegraph’s health expert Dr Tom Smith.

He said: “Anti-depressants are powerful tablets. Some work well, some don’t.

“Some people respond well, some don’t. It’s a sign that a lot of people are having mental health problems and are getting depressed.

“They are not prescribed lightly.

“They are only prescribed when the doctor really feels the patient needs them.”

Nationally, the report found an increasing use of antidepressants since the recession took hold in 2008 – at an average of 8.5 per cent a year.

It said: “Overuse of antidepressants can have a negative impact on patient health and create dependencies, representing an inefficient use of health care resources.”

Earlier this year, the Lancashire Telegraph reported how the waiting time for counselling in Blackburn with Darwen was slashed from one year to one week.