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Aims To examine the possible impact of the Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care (BOiMHC) initiative on general practitioner (GP) attitudes, training needs, service improvement strategies, and patient management approaches. Method A mail survey sent to 2500 GPs working in the Melbourne metropolitan area of whom 598 (23.9%) returned completed questionnaires. We compared GPs who were registered with BOiMHC and those who were not registered on: attitudes towards mental health care, needs for training, level of confidence in assessing and treating mental disorders, strategies for improving mental health care, and frequency of treatment solely by GPs or referral to specialist services. Results GPs who were registered in the BOiMHC, when compared with those who were not registered, were more likely to indicate interest in mental health work, and to endorse a need for improved funding arrangements and specialist advice and supervision to improve their capacity to conduct mental health care. They were less likely to express a need for further training in assessment and diagnosis. There was no overall difference between groups in relation to expressed training needs in most aspects of mental health work, treating mental disorders and in management approaches (sole management versus handover versus collaboration with specialist care). Conclusions Possible initial impacts of the BOiMHC on GP attitudes, needs and practice appear to be modest and require further exploration. There remain substantial needs for training in mental health care and for specialist advice and supervision. Insufficient co-ordination with mental health specialists remains a significant issue.