By using large scale data from GPs in Wales, researchers established that prescribing guidelines for teenagers with mental health problems were not always being followed. These findings have been used as the basis for ongoing work to provide better support for GPs to deliver the best treatment for teenagers.

Why was this work needed?

The number of children and young people experiencing some kind of mental health problem has increased over the years from one in nine to one in six. Establishing the best treatments for this age group can be difficult. There has been concern previously that mental health problems were being under-diagnosed in this group, but also that certain medications were being over-prescribed. This piece of research was conducted in response, to ensure that healthcare professionals are offering the best care to the right people.

What happened?

The SAIL Databank (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) is a Welsh database that allows data to be linked in a confidential and secure way. In this project, researchers used SAIL to analyse information relating to over 300,000 children and young people (aged between 6 and 18), identifying those who showed symptoms of anxiety and depression and looking for any patterns in the medication they were prescribed.

What were the benefits?

The research found that 15 to 18 year olds were being prescribed certain medications more often than they should be, according to guidelines. Real-world findings like this can help to raise awareness about issues like this, so that guidance for healthcare professionals can be amended to ensure safer care for children and young people going forward. The research group is now working with the Welsh Government to improve support given to GPs in how they deal with treating child and adolescent mental health problems.

What type of data was involved?

This study used the Welsh Demographic Service and the General Practice Database, both of which are available through SAIL. Although SAIL links personal data, it is all anonymized and encrypted to ensure security. Only approved researchers can access the data in SAIL.

The SAIL Databank is backed and endorsed by the Welsh Government as a legal and secure method for the storage and use of anonymised person-based records with capacity for data linkage and analysis for societal benefit.

For transparency, SAIL have a data use register where anyone can see the research projects that have used and are using SAIL data.

Who funded and collaborated on this work?

This study was funded by the Health and Care Research Wales and by the Welsh Government. It was also supported by the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research (a consortium of UK research organizations).

The SAIL databank is funded by Health and Care Research Wales, Welsh Government, UKRI Economic and Social Research Council, is supported by Swansea University, and in partnership with Digital Health and Care Wales.

Where can I go for more information?


Recent trends in primary-care antidepressant prescribing to children and young people: an e-cohort study

Recent trends in the incidence of anxiety and prescription of anxiolytics and hypnotics in children and young people: An e-cohort study

SAIL Databank Homepage


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