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Depression is a major public health problem in European countries, and health systems need to ensure access to effective psychological and pharmacological treatments. Research suggests that improvements in depression care require “complex interventions” that implement change in several areas simultaneously.
We describe an observational study of the implementation of a “stepped care” model to provide care for all adults presenting with a new case of depression in a mixed urban-rural area of Scotland with a population of 76,000 people.
A team of 5.2 clinicians provided care for about 1,000 new cases of depression each year. “Guided Self-Help” was the baseline intervention for all patients, supplemented where necessary with pharmacological treatment and Cognitive Behavioural or Interpersonal Therapy.
Service delivery systems were reformed to provide: specialist treatment in primary care settings using primarily non-medical clinicians, comprehensive electronic clinical records, continuous outcome monitoring and intensive investment in staff training and support.
Clinical outcomes (measured by the Personal Health Questionnaire, Social and Work Adjustment Scale and EQ-5D) showed significant improvement despite relatively brief clinician contact (2.5 hours over 4.6 contacts). Savings of more than 50% were made on the antidepressant drug budget. Service user satisfaction ratings were high.
Population needs for depression care can be met using “stepped care” models such as that described above. A randomised controlled study of this approach would be required to fully test the model.
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