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Exploring how patients respond to GP recommendations for mental health treatment: an analysis of communication in primary care consultations.

Ford, J., Thomas, F., Byng, R. & McCabe, R. ORCID: 0000-0003-2041-7383 (2019). Exploring how patients respond to GP recommendations for mental health treatment: an analysis of communication in primary care consultations.. BJGP Open, 3(4), bjgpopen19. doi: 10.3399/bjgpopen19X101670


BACKGROUND: Patient take-up and adherence to antidepressants and talking therapy is low. However, little is known about how GPs recommend these treatments and whether patients accept them. AIM: To examine how GPs recommend antidepressants and talking therapy, and how patients respond. DESIGN & SETTING: A total of 52 recorded primary care consultations for depression, anxiety, and stress were analysed. METHOD: Using a standardised coding scheme, five ways doctors recommend treatment were coded, conveying varying authority and endorsement. The treatment recommendation types were as follows: more directive pronouncements (I'll start you on X); proposals (How about we start X?); less directive suggestions (Would you like to try X?); offers (Do you want me to give you X?); and assertions (There are medications that might help). It was also coded whether patients accepted, passively resisted (for example, withholding response), or actively resisted (for example, I've tried that before). RESULTS: A total of 33 recommendations occurred in 23 consultations. In two-thirds of cases, GPs treated the patient as primary decision-maker by using suggestions, offers, or assertions. In one-third of cases, they used more directive pronouncements or proposals. GPs endorsed treatment moderately (67%), weakly (18%), or strongly (15%). Only one-quarter of recommendations were accepted immediately. Patients cited fears about medication side effects and/or dependency, group therapy, and doubts about treatment efficacy. Despite three-quarters of patients resisting, 76% got prescriptions or self-referral information for talking therapy. CONCLUSION: Initially, GPs treat patients as the decision-maker. However, although patients resist, most end up with treatment. This may impact negatively on treatment uptake and success. Social prescribing may fill a treatment gap for some patients.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is Open Access: CC BY license (
Publisher Keywords: general practice; mental health; patients; primary health care; research methods (other); social sciences
Subjects: R Medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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