New NICE guidance is advising doctors to screen people for depression if they are suffering from a long-term illness.
NICE said patients with illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are two or three times more likely to be depressed compared to healthy people.
Its guidance recommends that GPs should not solely focus on patient’s physical problems, but instead ask them a series of questions to determine if they are depressed.
The move comes after research showed that symptoms can improve if people suffering severe health problems are treated for depression.
The new guidance sets out two key questions patients should be asked if a doctor suspects they may be at risk of depression.
They are: “During the last month, have you often been bothered by feeling down depressed or hopeless?” … or “Have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things?”
If the patient says yes, the doctor should refer a patient on to a specialist or, if they are trained in mental health assessment, ask a further three questions.
These will check if the patient has, in the last month, been bothered by feelings of worthlessness, poor concentration or thoughts of death.
Antidepressants should not be given routinely but should be considered for people with more severe depression alongside services such as cognitive behavioural therapy, the guidance said.