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1.  The strength of primary care in Europe: an international comparative study 
The British Journal of General Practice  2013;63(616):e742-e750.
Background
A suitable definition of primary care to capture the variety of prevailing international organisation and service-delivery models is lacking.
Aim
Evaluation of strength of primary care in Europe.
Design and setting
International comparative cross-sectional study performed in 2009–2010, involving 27 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Method
Outcome measures covered three dimensions of primary care structure: primary care governance, economic conditions of primary care, and primary care workforce development; and four dimensions of primary care service-delivery process: accessibility, comprehensiveness, continuity, and coordination of primary care. The primary care dimensions were operationalised by a total of 77 indicators for which data were collected in 31 countries. Data sources included national and international literature, governmental publications, statistical databases, and experts’ consultations.
Results
Countries with relatively strong primary care are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK. Countries either have many primary care policies and regulations in place, combined with good financial coverage and resources, and adequate primary care workforce conditions, or have consistently only few of these primary care structures in place. There is no correlation between the access, continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness of primary care of countries.
Conclusion
Variation is shown in the strength of primary care across Europe, indicating a discrepancy in the responsibility given to primary care in national and international policy initiatives and the needed investments in primary care to solve, for example, future shortages of workforce. Countries are consistent in their primary care focus on all important structure dimensions. Countries need to improve their primary care information infrastructure to facilitate primary care performance management.
doi:10.3399/bjgp13X674422
PMCID: PMC3809427  PMID: 24267857
benchmarking, Europe; delivery of health care; general practice; primary health care
2.  International developments in revenues and incomes of general practitioners from 2000 to 2010 
Background
The remuneration system of General Practitioners (GPs) has changed in several countries in the past decade. The aim of our study was: to establish the effect of these changes on the revenues and income of GPs in the first decade of the 21st century.
Methods
Annual GP revenue and practice costs were collected from national institutes in the eight countries included in our study (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, The United Kingdom (UK)) from 2000–2010. The data were corrected for inflation and purchasing power. Data on the remuneration systems and changes herein were collected from the European Observatory Health Systems Reviews and country experts.
Results
Comprehensive changes in the remuneration system of GPs were associated with considerable changes in GP income. Incremental changes mainly coincided with a gradual increase in income after correction for inflation. Average GP income was higher in countries with a strong primary care structure.
Conclusions
The gap between the countries where GPs have a lower income (Belgium, Sweden, France and Finland) and the countries where GPs have a higher income (Netherlands, Germany and the UK) continues to exist over time and appeared to be related to dimensions of primary care, such as governance and access. New payment forms, such as integrated care payment systems, and new health care professionals that are working for GPs, increasingly blur the line between practice costs and income, making it more and more important to clearly define expenditures on GPs, to remain sight on the actual income of GPs.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-436
PMCID: PMC4015771  PMID: 24152337
General practice; Income; International comparative research
3.  A promising approach in comparative research on care for the elderly 
BMC Medicine  2011;9:124.
Long-term care (LTC) in the form of care provided in nursing homes, homes for the aged and home care is considered an appropriate answer to the growing needs of the aging populations of the industrialized world. However, the provision of and expenditures on LTC vary considerably between these industrialized countries. Although one would expect LTC to be subject to many internationally comparative studies, including all European countries, this is not the case. A paper presented by Damiani et al. in BMC Health Services Research contains an internationally comparative model regarding the development of LTC in Europe (2003 to 2007). They achieve an intriguing compromise between depth and width in the sparsely populated domain of internationally comparative research on LTC by characterizing countries' LTC and interpreting the large north/south differences found. Their results also show that 'cash for care' schemes form a substantial alternative to traditional LTC provision. An additional time series analysis showed that many countries seem to be engaged in reorganizing the LTC sector. This study widens knowledge in a neglected area of health services research and should serve as a source of inspiration for further studies.
Please see related article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/11/316 [1]
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-124
PMCID: PMC3278386  PMID: 22099948
4.  The breadth of primary care: a systematic literature review of its core dimensions 
Background
Even though there is general agreement that primary care is the linchpin of effective health care delivery, to date no efforts have been made to systematically review the scientific evidence supporting this supposition. The aim of this study was to examine the breadth of primary care by identifying its core dimensions and to assess the evidence for their interrelations and their relevance to outcomes at (primary) health system level.
Methods
A systematic review of the primary care literature was carried out, restricted to English language journals reporting original research or systematic reviews. Studies published between 2003 and July 2008 were searched in MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, King's Fund Database, IDEAS Database, and EconLit.
Results
Eighty-five studies were identified. This review was able to provide insight in the complexity of primary care as a multidimensional system, by identifying ten core dimensions that constitute a primary care system. The structure of a primary care system consists of three dimensions: 1. governance; 2. economic conditions; and 3. workforce development. The primary care process is determined by four dimensions: 4. access; 5. continuity of care; 6. coordination of care; and 7. comprehensiveness of care. The outcome of a primary care system includes three dimensions: 8. quality of care; 9. efficiency care; and 10. equity in health. There is a considerable evidence base showing that primary care contributes through its dimensions to overall health system performance and health.
Conclusions
A primary care system can be defined and approached as a multidimensional system contributing to overall health system performance and health.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-65
PMCID: PMC2848652  PMID: 20226084
5.  Labour intensity of guidelines may have a greater effect on adherence than GPs' workload 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:74.
Background
Physicians' heavy workload is often thought to jeopardise the quality of care and to be a barrier to improving quality. The relationship between these has, however, rarely been investigated. In this study quality of care is defined as care 'in accordance with professional guidelines'. In this study we investigated whether GPs with a higher workload adhere less to guidelines than those with a lower workload and whether guideline recommendations that require a greater time investment are less adhered to than those that can save time.
Methods
Data were used from the Second Dutch National survey of General Practice (DNSGP-2). This nationwide study was carried out between April 2000 and January 2002.
A multilevel logistic-regression analysis was conducted of 170,677 decisions made by GPs, referring to 41 Guideline Adherence Indicators (GAIs), which were derived from 32 different guidelines. Data were used from 130 GPs, working in 83 practices with 98,577 patients. GP-characteristics as well as guideline characteristics were used as independent variables. Measures include workload (number of contacts), hours spent on continuing medical education, satisfaction with available time, practice characteristics and patient characteristics. Outcome measure is an indicator score, which is 1 when a decision is in accordance with professional guidelines or 0 when the decision deviates from guidelines.
Results
On average, 66% of the decisions GPs made were in accordance with guidelines. No relationship was found between the objective workload of GPs and their adherence to guidelines. Subjective workload (measured on a five point scale) was negatively related to guideline adherence (OR = 0.95). After controlling for all other variables, the variation between GPs in adherence to guideline recommendations showed a range of less than 10%.
84% of the variation in guideline adherence was located at the GAI-level. Which means that the differences in adherence levels between guidelines are much larger than differences between GPs. Guideline recommendations that require an extra time investment during the same consultation are significantly less adhered to: (OR = 0.46), while those that can save time have much higher adherence levels: OR = 1.55). Recommendations that reduce the likelihood of a follow-up consultation for the same problem are also more often adhered to compared to those that have no influence on this (OR = 3.13).
Conclusion
No significant relationship was found between the objective workload of GPs and adherence to guidelines. However, guideline recommendations that require an extra time investment are significantly less well adhered to while those that can save time are significantly more often adhered to.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-74
PMCID: PMC2791751  PMID: 19943953
6.  Do list size and remuneration affect GPs' decisions about how they provide consultations? 
Background
Doctors' professional behaviour is influenced by the way they are paid. When GPs are paid per item, i.e., on a fee-for-service basis (FFS), there is a clear relationship between workload and income: more work means more money. In the case of capitation based payment, workload is not directly linked to income since the fees per patient are fixed. In this study list size was considered as an indicator for workload and we investigated how list size and remuneration affect GP decisions about how they provide consultations. The main objectives of this study were to investigate a) how list size is related to consultation length, waiting time to get an appointment, and the likelihood that GPs conduct home visits and b) to what extent the relationships between list size and these three variables are affected by remuneration.
Methods
List size was used because this is an important determinant of objective workload. List size was corrected for number of older patients and patients who lived in deprived areas. We focussed on three dependent variables that we expected to be related to remuneration and list size: consultation length; waiting time to get an appointment; and home visits. Data were derived from the second Dutch National Survey of General Practice (DNSGP-2), carried out between 2000 and 2002. The data were collected using electronic medical records, videotaped consultations and postal surveys. Multilevel regression analyses were performed to assess the hypothesized relationships.
Results
Our results indicate that list size is negatively related to consultation length, especially among GPs with relatively large lists. A correlation between list size and waiting time to get an appointment, and a correlation between list size and the likelihood of a home visit were only found for GPs with small practices. These correlations are modified by the proportion of patients for whom GPs receive capitation fees. Waiting times to get an appointment tend to become shorter with increasing patient lists when there is a larger capitation percentage. The likelihood that GPs will conduct home visit rises with increasing patient lists when the capitation percentage is small.
Conclusion
Remuneration appears to affect GPs' decisions about how they provide consultations, especially among GPs with relatively small patient lists. This role is, however, small compared to other factors such as patient characteristics.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-39
PMCID: PMC2654894  PMID: 19245685
7.  Income development of General Practitioners in eight European countries from 1975 to 2005 
Background
This study aims to gain insight into the international development of GP incomes over time through a comparative approach. The study is an extension of an earlier work (1975–1990, conducted in five yearly intervals). The research questions to be addressed in this paper are: 1) How can the remuneration system of GPs in a country be characterized? 2) How has the annual GP income developed over time in selected European countries? 3) What are the differences in GP incomes when differences in workload are taken into account? And 4) to what extent do remuneration systems, supply of GPs and gate-keeping contribute to the income position of GPs?
Methods
Data were collected for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Written sources, websites and country experts were consulted. The data for the years 1995 and 2000 were collected in 2004–2005. The data for 2005 were collected in 2006–2007.
Results
During the period 1975–1990, the income of GPs, corrected for inflation, declined in all the countries under review. During the period 1995–2005, the situation changed significantly: The income of UK GPs rose to the very top position. Besides this, the gap between the top end (UK) and bottom end (Belgium) widened considerably. Practice costs form about 50% of total revenues, regardless of the absolute level of revenues. Analysis based on income per patient leads to a different ranking of countries compared to the ranking based on annual income. In countries with a relatively large supply of GPs, income per hour is lower. The type of remuneration appeared to have no effect on the financial position of the GPs in the countries in this study. In countries with a gate-keeping system the average GP income was systematically higher compared to countries with a direct-access system.
Conclusion
There are substantial differences in the income of GPs among the countries included in this study. The discrepancy between countries has increased over time. The income of British GPs showed a marked increase from 2000 to 2005, due to the introduction of a new contract between the NHS and GPs.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-26
PMCID: PMC2670288  PMID: 19203360
8.  The impact of donor policies in Europe: a steady increase, but not everywhere 
Background
Transplantable organs are scarce everywhere. Therefore, countries have developed policies to support the efficient use of potential donors. Nevertheless, the shortage of organs remains. Were these policies in vain? The aim of this study is to assess the impact of donor policies on donor procurement in 10 Western European countries from 1995 to 2005.
Method
To assess the impact of the donor policies we studied the conversion of potential donors into effectuated donors. 80% of the donors died from CVAs or a (traffic) accident. We considered these mortality rates to be a good proxy for potential donors. Here we call the conversion of potential donors into actual donors 'the donor efficiency rate by proxy'.
Results
The mortality rates for CVA and (traffic) accidents have decreased in the countries under study. At the same time, in most countries the donor efficiency rates have steadily increased. The variance in donor efficiency rates between countries has also increased from 1995 to 2005. Four countries introduced a new consent system or changed their existing system, without (visible) long-term effects.
Conclusion
The overall increase in donor efficiency means that the efforts to improve donor policies have paid off. However, substantial differences between countries were found. The success of donor policies in terms of the number of absolute donors is blurred by the success of policies on traffic safety and CVA treatment. It remains unclear which specific policy measures are responsible for the increase in donor efficiency rates. This increase is not related to having a presumed consent system. Furthermore, an analysis of countries that introduced a new consent system or changed their system showed no effect on donor efficiency.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-235
PMCID: PMC2605749  PMID: 19014536
9.  Changes in the pattern of service utilisation and health problems of women, men and various age groups following a destructive disaster: a matched cohort study with a pre-disaster assessment 
BMC Family Practice  2008;9:48.
Objectives
Female gender and young age are known risk factors for psychological morbidity after a disaster, but this conclusion is based on studies without a pre-disaster assessment. The aim of this study in family practice was to investigate if these supposed risk factors would still occur in a study design with a pre-disaster measurement.
Methods
A matched cohort study with pre-disaster (one year) and post-disaster (five years) data. Community controls (N = 3164) were matched with affected residents (N = 3164) on gender, age and socioeconomic status. Main outcome measures were utilization rates measured by family practice attendances and psychological, musculoskeletal and digestive health problems as registered by the family practitioner using the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC).
Results
Affected residents of female and male gender and in five age groups all showed increases in utilization rates in the first post-disaster year and in psychological problems when compared to their pre-disaster baseline levels. The increases showed no statistically significant changes, however, between women and men and between all age groups.
Conclusion
Gender and age did not appear to be disaster-related risk factors in this study in family practice with a pre-disaster base line assessment, a comparison group and using existing registries. Family practitioners should not focus specifically on these risk groups.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-9-48
PMCID: PMC2553410  PMID: 18755036
10.  Carpal tunnel syndrome in general practice (1987 and 2001): incidence and the role of occupational and non-occupational factors 
Background
Most studies on the incidence of the carpal tunnel syndrome and the relation of this disorder with occupation are population-based. In this study we present data from general practice.
Aim
To compare incidence rates of carpal tunnel syndrome in 1987 with those in 2001, and to study the relationship between carpal tunnel syndrome and occupation.
Design of study
Analysis of the data of the first and second Dutch National Survey of General Practice, conducted in 1987 and 2001, respectively.
Setting
General practices in The Netherlands.
Method
One hundred and three general practices in 1987 with 355 201 listed patients, and 96 practices with 364 998 listed patients in 2001, registered all patients who presented with a new episode of carpal tunnel syndrome. Patient and GP populations were representative for The Netherlands.
Results
The crude incidence rate was 1.3 per 1000 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.0 to 1.5) in 1987, and 1.8 per 1000 (95% CI = 1.7 to 2.0) in 2001. In males it was 0.6 (95% CI = 0.5 to 0.7) and 0.9 (95% CI = 0.8 to 1.0) respectively; in females 1.9 (95% CI = 1.7 to 2.1) and 2.8 (95% CI = 2.6 to 3.1). At both study periods, peak incidence rate occurred in the 45–64-year age group: in 2001 this peak reached 4.8 per 1000 (95 CI = 4.1 to 5.4) for females and 1.6 (95 CI = 1.2 to 2.0) for males. Women who performed unskilled and semi-skilled work had 1.5 times greater risk of acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome than women with higher-skilled jobs (P<0.001). In men no relationship of this kind was found.
Conclusion
In 2001 the crude incidence rate of carpal tunnel syndrome was 1.5 times higher than in 1987, but the difference was not statistically significant after subdividing by age and sex. In both years the female:male ratio was 3:1. Incidence rates were related to the job level of women, but not of men.
PMCID: PMC2032698  PMID: 17244422
age distribution; carpal tunnel syndrome; epidemiology; incidence; occupational diseases
11.  Changes in the sociodemographic composition of the lowest socioeconomic group over time, 1987–2001 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:305.
Background
When comparing health differences of groups with equal socioeconomic status (SES) over time, the sociodemographic composition of such a SES group is considered to be constant. However, when the periods are sufficiently spaced in time, sociodemographic changes may have occurred. The aim of this study is to examine in which respects the sociodemographic composition of lowest SES group changed between 1987 and 2001.
Methods
Our data were derived from the first and second Dutch National Survey of General Practice conducted in 1987 and 2001. In 1987 sociodemographic data from all listed patients (N = 334,007) were obtained by filling out a registration form at the practice (response 78.3%, 261,691 persons), in 2001 these data from all listed patients (385,461) were obtained by postal survey (response 76.9%, 296,243 persons). Participants were primarily classified according to their occupation into three SES groups: lowest, middle and highest.
Results
In comparison with 1987, the lowest SES group decreased in relative size from 34.9% to 29.5%. Within this smaller SES group, the relative contribution of persons with a higher education more than doubled for females and doubled for males. This indicates that the relation between educational level and occupation was less firmly anchored in 2001 than in 1987.
The relative proportion of some disadvantaged groups (divorced, unemployed) increased in the lowest SES group, but the size of this effect was smaller than the increase from higher education. Young people (0–24 years) were proportionally less often represented in the lowest SES group.
Non-Western immigrants contributed in 2001 proportionally less to the lowest SES group than in 1987, because of an intergenerational upward mobility of the second generation.
Conclusion
On balance, the changes in the composition did not result in an accumulation of disadvantaged groups in the lowest SES group. On the contrary, the influx of people with higher educational qualifications between 1987 and 2001 could result in better health outcomes and health perspectives of the lowest SES group
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-305
PMCID: PMC2169236  PMID: 17961246
12.  Gender shift in realisation of preferred type of gp practice: longitudinal survey over the last 25 years 
Background
An increasing number of newly trained Dutch GPs prefer to work in a group practice and as a non-principal rather than in a single-handed practice. In view of the greater number of female doctors, changing practice preferences, and discussions on future workforce problems, the question is whether male and female GPs were able to realise their initial preferences in the past and will be able to do so in the future.
Methods
We have conducted longitudinal cohort study of all GPs in the Netherlands seeking a practice between 1980 and 2004. The Netherlands Institute of Health Services Research (NIVEL) in Utrecht collected the data used in this study by means of a postal questionnaire. The overall mean response rate was 94%.
Results
Over the past 20 years, an increasing proportion of GPs, both male and female, were able to achieve their preference for working in a group practice and/or in a non-principal position. Relatively more women than men have settled in group practices, and more men than women in single-handed practices; however, the practice preference of men and women is beginning to converge. Dropout was highest among the GPs without any specific practice preference.
Conclusion
The overwhelming preference of male and female GPs for working in group practices is apparently being met by the number of positions (principal or non-principal) available in group practices. The preference of male and female GPs regarding the type of practice and job conditions is expected to converge further in the near future.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-111
PMCID: PMC1971053  PMID: 17629907
13.  Bismarck or Beveridge: a beauty contest between dinosaurs 
Background
Health systems delivery systems can be divided into two broad categories: National Health Services (NHS) on the one hand and Social Security (based) Health care systems (SSH) on the other hand. Existing literature is inconclusive about which system performs best. In this paper we would like to improve the evidence-base for discussion about pros and cons of NHS-systems versus SSH-system for health outcomes, expenditure and population satisfaction.
Methods
In this study we used time series data for 17 European countries, that were characterized as either NHS or SSH country. We used the following performance indicators: For health outcome: overall mortality rate, infant mortality rate and life expectancy at birth. For health care costs: health care expenditure per capita in pppUS$ and health expenditure as percentage of GDP. Time series dated from 1970 until 2003 or 2004, depending on availability. Sources were OECD health data base 2006 and WHO health for all database 2006. For satisfaction we used the Eurobarometer studies from 1996, 1998 and 1999.
Results
SSH systems perform slightly better on overall mortality rates and life expectancy (after 1980). For infant mortality the rates converged between the two types of systems and since 1980 no differences ceased to exist.
SSH systems are more expensive and NHS systems have a better cost containment. Inhabitants of countries with SSH-systems are on average substantially more satisfied than those in NHS countries.
Conclusion
We concluded that the question 'which type of system performs best' can be answered empirically as far as health outcomes, health care expenditures and patient satisfaction are concerned. Whether this selection of indicators covers all or even most relevant aspects of health system comparison remains to be seen. Perhaps further and more conclusive research into health system related differences in, for instance, equity should be completed before the leading question of this paper can be answered. We do think, however, that this study can form a base for a policy debate on the pros and cons of the existing health care systems in Europe.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-94
PMCID: PMC1934356  PMID: 17594476
14.  Internet-based monitoring of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the general population of the Netherlands during the 2003–2004 influenza season 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:242.
Background
An internet-based survey of influenza-like illness (ILI) – the Great Influenza Survey or GIS – was launched in the Netherlands in the 2003–2004 influenza season. The aim of the present study was to validate the representativeness of the GIS population and to compare the GIS data with the official ILI data obtained by Dutch GPs participating in the Dutch Sentinel Practice Network.
Method
Direct mailings to schools and universities, and repeated interviews on television and radio, and in newspapers were used to kindle the enthusiasm of a broad section of the public for GIS. Strict symptomatic criteria for ILI were formulated with the assistance of expert institutes and only participants who responded at least five times to weekly e-mails asking them about possible ILI symptoms were included in the survey. Validation of GIS was done at different levels: 1) some key demographic (age distribution) and public health statistics (prevalence of asthma and diabetes, and influenza vaccination rates) for the Dutch population were compared with corresponding figures calculated from GIS; 2) the ILI rates in GIS were compared with the ILI consultation rates reported by GPs participating in the Dutch Sentinel Practice Network.
Results
13,300 persons (53% of total responders), replied at least five times to weekly e-mails and were included in the survey. As expected, there was a marked under-representation of the age groups 0–10 years and 81->90 years in the GIS population, although the similarities were remarkable for most other age groups, albeit that the age groups between 21 and 70 years were slightly overrepresented. There were striking similarities between GIS and the Dutch population with regard to the prevalence of asthma (6.4% vs. 6.9%) and the influenza vaccination rates, and to a lesser degree for diabetes (2.4% vs. 3.5%). The vaccination rates in patients with asthma or diabetes, and persons older than 65 years were 68%, 85%, and 85% respectively in GIS, while the corresponding percentages in the Dutch population were 73%, 85% and 87%. There was also a marked similarity between the seasonal course of ILI measured by GIS and the GPs. Although the ILI rate in GIS was about 10 times higher, the curves followed an almost similar pattern, with peak incidences occurring in the same week.
Conclusion
The current study demonstrates that recruitment of a high number of persons willing to participate in on-line health surveillance is feasible. The information gathered proved to be reliable, as it paralleled the information obtained via an undisputed route. We believe that the interactive nature of GIS and the appealing subject were keys to its success.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-242
PMCID: PMC1609118  PMID: 17018161
15.  Treatment of heart failure in Dutch general practice 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:40.
Background
To study the relation between the prescription rates of selected cardiovascular drugs (ACE-inhibitors and Angiotensin receptor blockers, beta-blockers, diuretics, and combinations), sociodemographic factors (age, gender and socioeconomic class) and concomitant diseases (hypertension, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular accident, heart valve disease, atrial fibrillation, diabetes mellitus and asthma/COPD) among patients with heart failure cared for in general practice.
Methods
Data from the second Dutch National Survey in General Practice, conducted mainly in 2001. In this study the data of 96 practices with a registered patient population of 374.000 were used.
Data included diagnosis made during one year by general practitioners, derived from the electronic medical records, prescriptions for medication and sociodemographic characteristics collected via a postal questionnary (response 76%)
Results
A diagnosis of HF was found with 2771 patients (7.1 in 1000). Their mean age was 77.7 years, 68% was 75 years or older, 55% of the patients were women. Overall prescription rates for RAAS-I, beta-blockers and diuretics were 50%, 32%, 86%, respectively, whereas a combination of these three drugs was prescribed in 18%. Variations in prescription rates were mainly related to age and concomitant diseases.
Conclusion
Prescription is not influenced by gender, to a small degree influenced by socioeconomic status and to a large degree by age and concomitant diseases.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-40
PMCID: PMC1533835  PMID: 16822303
16.  The epidemiology of suicide and attempted suicide in Dutch general practice 1983–2003 
BMC Family Practice  2005;6:45.
Background
Many patients attempting or committing suicide consult their general practitioner (GP) in the preceding period, indicating that GPs might play an important role in prevention. The aim of the present study was to analyse the epidemiology of suicidal behaviour in Dutch General Practice in order to find possible clues for prevention.
Method
Description of trends in suicide and suicide attempts occurring from 1983–2003 in the Dutch General Practice Sentinel Network, representing 1% of the Dutch population. The data were analysed with regard to: 1) suicidal behaviour trends and their association with household situation; 2) presence of depression, treatment of depression and referral rate by GPs; 3) contact with GP before suicide or suicide attempt and discussion of suicidal ideation.
Results
Between 1983 and 2003 the annual number of suicide and suicide attempts decreased by 50%. Sixty percent of the patients who committed or attempted suicide were diagnosed as depressed, of whom 91% were treated by their GP with an antidepressant. Living alone was a risk factor for suicide (odds ratio 1.99; 95% CI 1.50 to 2.64), whereas living in a household of 3 or more persons was a relative risk for a suicide attempt (odds ratio 1.81; 95% CI 1.34 to 2.46). Referral to a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals occurred in 65% of the cases. GPs recalled having discussed suicidal ideation in only 7% of the cases, and in retrospect estimated that they had foreseen suicide or suicide attempts in 31% and 22% of the cases, respectively, if there had been contact in the preceding month.
Conclusion
With regard to the prescription of antidepressants and referral of suicidal patients to a psychiatrist, Dutch GPs fulfil their role as gatekeeper satisfactorily. However, since few patients discuss their suicidal ideation with their GP, there is room for improvement. GPs should take the lead to make this subject debatable. It may improve early recognition of depressed patients at risk and accelerate their referral to mental health professionals.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-6-45
PMCID: PMC1291363  PMID: 16271136

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