Publicatie datum

A new approach to child mental health care within general practice.

Verhaak, P.F.M., Dijk, M. van, Walstock, D., Zwaanswijk, M. A new approach to child mental health care within general practice. BMC Family Practice: 2015, 16(132)
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Child and adolescent mental health problems are frequently not identified and properly treated within general practice. Politicians in the Netherlands are promoting more primary healthcare treatment for mental health problems. The current study aims to evaluate an integrated primary mental healthcare approach for child and adolescent emotional and behavioural problems. This integrated approach allows general practitioners (GPs) to comprehensively explore the request for help, followed by an informed decision to refer, offer short-term treatment within general practice or postpone a decision by asking for additional consultations with youth mental health specialists.

The study is a naturalistic evaluation of Dutch general practices with pre-test and post-test comparison with controls based on data from Electronic Medical Records (EMR). The intervention started in September 2010. EMR data of all GP contacts with children aged 4 to 18 (including diagnosis, prescriptions, referrals) from practices involved in the intervention was used from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2012. Extra codes were added to the EMR to record aspects of the intervention. Comparable EMR data was used in control practices in 2011.

GPs in the intervention group were able to identify more emotional and behavioural problems after the integrated service had started. They also identified more problems than GPs in the control practices. They were already reluctant to prescribe psychopharmacological medication to children before the intervention, and levels of prescription at intervention GP practices remained low for psychotropic drugs compared to control practices. Referral rates to mental healthcare remained relatively steady after the introduction of the integrated service, but referrals switched from specialized to primary mental healthcare. (aut. ref.)