New guidance published by the NHS has said that patients should be screened for depression if they are suffering from long-term health problems such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said doctors should not just focus on the physical aspects of an illness, but screen for depression by asking a series of questions.
Previous research has shown that men and women with long-term health issues are between two and three times more likely to have depression than those who are healthy.
Research has shown that treating depression in people with chronic health problems can improve their symptoms.
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.
Copyright © Press Association 2009
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
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"Yes, doctors must screen the patients with chronic illness, it will help them a lot" – Mukesh Kumar Sharma, India