THE Morecambe Bay area experienced the biggest rise of prescribed anti-depressants in the first month of lockdown than anywhere else in the north west, figures suggest.

According to data released by NHS Digital, the medical group that covers south Cumbria and parts of north Lancashire had the largest increase in prescriptions of the drugs as lockdown began.

Deprived areas are said to have seen more people prescribed the medicine, used to treat mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The latest figures going up to April showed more than 44,000 antidepressant prescriptions were given by doctors in the Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group area.

That figure represents a more than seven per cent increase on the year before, the highest rise in the north west.

More than 41,000 prescriptions were made in April 2019.

Around 45,000 prescriptions were made in March 2020, an increase of nearly nine per cent from the previous year.

But the rise ranked as the lowest in comparison with other clinical commissioning groups.

The Morecambe Bay CCG prescribed the third highest number of antidepressants per 1,000 people in March behind Fylde and Wyre and Blackpool.

In March 2020, 122 antidepressants were prescribed per 1,000 CCG patients in the north east region, more than any other English region and the highest rate of any month analysed. 

The months of March and April combined also saw the north west prescribing at the highest rate - 233 antidepressants per 1,000 patients.

Data from NHS Digital shows there was an overall increase of 9.3 per cent in medicines prescribed in England in March 2020 compared to March 2019.

Pharmacist Alistair Murray said: “A lot of people ordered their next prescription early because there was so much uncertainty about how lockdown would work and people didn’t want to be left without medicines.

“With antidepressants, we know that people can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking them suddenly so it’s not surprising that people didn’t want to risk running out."