The prevalence of patients with mental health problems in general practice is high, and at least one-third of these problems last for 6 months or longer. Patients with these problems take up more time during a consultation and attend more frequently.
This study investigated the effectiveness of problem-solving treatment for primary care patients with mental health problems. The hypothesis was that patients receiving problem-solving treatment from a nurse would have fewer symptoms after 3 months, or a lower attendance rate, compared with patients receiving the usual care from the GP.
Design of the study
Randomised clinical trial.
Twelve general practices in Amsterdam and 12 nurses from a mental healthcare institution.
A sample of patients aged ≥18 years were screened for mental health problems with the general health questionnaire (GHQ–12) in the waiting room of the general practices, and were randomised. Patients receiving the problem-solving treatment were required to complete four to six treatment sessions, while patients in the control group were treated as usual by the GP.
No significant difference was found between the groups in terms of improved psychopathology or a decrease in attendance rate. Post-hoc analyses showed a sub-group of patients with more severe pathology who may benefit from problem-solving treatment.
The main results show that problem-solving treatment provided by a nurse adds little to the usual care from the GP for frequent attenders with mental health problems. Post-hoc analyses show that there may be a sub-group of more severely depressed patients who could benefit from problem-solving treatment.
Keywords: anxiety, depression, family practice, nurses, problem-solving, treatment