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A comparison of GPs and nurses in their approach to psychological disturbance in primary care consultations

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It has frequently been reported that GPs fail to diagnose many of the psychological problems that present to them. It also appears that practice nurses working in primary care also show similar diagnostic ‘failings’. This study extends these observations by reporting the psychiatric diagnostic practices of GPs and nurses working in the same settings of six general practices. After each consultation the health professional involved assessed the degree of psychological morbidity and the amount of time they had spent attending to this problem. The health professionals’ assessment was compared with the score from a General Health Questionnaire completed by the patient. Analysis of 1646 consultations revealed that GPs saw patients with more psychological problems than nurses. Nurses, however, spent significantly more time dealing with their psychological workload than their GP colleagues, after allowing for the fact that they saw fewer patients in this category. This observation raises the question of whether this use of scarce time resource in the consultation is appropriate.
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Keywords: general practitioners; practice nurses; psychological disturbance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Reader in Sociology as applied to Medicine, Department of General Practice, 5 Lambeth Walk, London and 2: Lecturer in General Practice Department of General Practice, Kings College London

Publication date: 01 March 2005

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