Primary care trusts and local councils in London should “prescribe debt advice” to help patients through the recession, according to a report published today by the London Health Forum.

The report – London Capital of Debt – said PCTs in the capital already spend £1.8 billion on treating patients with mental health issues, 26 per cent more than thenational average.

The report estimates that £450m of this is spent on patients who have mental health problems and are in debt. The recession is likely to make this worse, it warns.

While it acknowledges that not all debt leads to mental illness, the report recommends that PCTs and councils “prescribe” early debt advice as a preventive measure.

London Health Forum director John Murray said: “Unfortunately, many people struggling with debt seek advice later than they should becoming ill as a result. The NHS therefore needs to go onto a preventive footing by getting people to debt advice sooner, using the extensive channels of communication at its disposal.”