Anxiety UK welcomes the release of the NICE anxiety disorder quality standard

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) today releases their anxiety disorder quality standard, which aims to improve the quality of care and support for children, young people and adults with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are incredibly common yet recognition of them, particularly in primary care, is poor, leading to many not receiving the support they need. And when people do seek support from their GP, treatment is often limited to the prescription of medication.

Jo, 52 from Manchester, has had lifelong difficulties with social anxiety. “It took many years to be diagnosed specifically with social anxiety, after initially being told I was just experiencing anxiety and given medication. When I was finally told it was social anxiety disorder, I didn’t feel like my GP fully understood the condition or how to manage it. I think if my GP would have better understood what I was going through, I may have received the help I needed much earlier.”

The NICE anxiety disorder quality standard has four main points that will help to improve the care that those experiencing anxiety will receive:

  1. Accurate diagnosis of a person’s specific anxiety disorder can help them understand their condition and ensure they are offered the most appropriate treatment at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, people with a suspected anxiety disorder should receive an assessment that identifies whether they have a specific anxiety disorder, how severe it is and how it impacts their life.
  2. Evidence-based psychological interventions are effective treatments for anxiety disorders and should be offered as first-line treatments in preference to pharmacological treatment. They include both low-intensity interventions incorporating self-help approaches and high-intensity psychological therapies. Using the stepped care model allows the least intensive intervention that is appropriate for a person to be provided first, and people can step up or down the pathway according to changing needs and in response to treatment.
  3. People with anxiety disorders should not be prescribed benzodiazepines or antipsychotics unless there are specific clinical reasons why these treatments may be of short term benefit (for example, in anxiety disorder crisis).
  4. Patients should have their response to treatment recorded at each treatment session. This not only ensures that the effectiveness of treatment can be assessed and adjustments made if needed, but also provides an opportunity for the health practitioner to monitor other outcomes, such as the person’s ability to continue or return to employment.

“We particularly applaud the recognition of the value of a person-centred approach to service provision in order to provide high-quality care to those affected by anxiety,” says Anxiety UK CEO, Nicky Lidbetter. “Highlighting the need for an assessment that identifies a person’s global experience of anxiety, ensuring they are offered the least intrusive evidence-based psychological interventions and that their responses to treatment are regularly monitored, are excellent steps towards providing a better service to those affected by anxiety. Finally, highlighting that those who need them for short-term care and/or anxiety disorder crises can still be prescribed benzodiazepines and antipsychotics, is a welcome addition, as we know that these medications can be helpful for some people affected by anxiety.”

The quality standard comes only weeks after Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, pledged “to bring mental health out of the shadows.” In the announcement, waiting times and patient choice were targeted in plans to put mental health treatment on a par with other care.

“The Government’s announcement, along with the release of the quality standard, are both very encouraging for those seeking treatment for their anxiety,” says Lidbetter. “We now hope that resources and funding will be put in place to allow these positive changes to take shape and make a real impact to patient care.”

For more information about the NICE anxiety disorder quality standard, click here.