Mental health care in the primary care setting: Family physicians' perspectives

Lisa Clatney, Heather MacDonald, Syed M. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To assess family physicians' interactions with mental health professionals (MHPs), their satisfaction with the delivery of mental health care in primary health care settings, and their perceptions of areas for improvement. DESIGN: Mailed survey. SETTING: Province of Saskatchewan. PARTICIPANTS: All FPs in Saskatchewan (N = 816) were invited to participate in the study; 31 were later determined to be ineligible because they were specialist physicians, were no longer practising regularly, or could not be located. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Family physicians' self-reported satisfaction with and interest in mental health care; perceived strengths and areas for improvement in the quality of mental health care delivery in primary health care settings. RESULTS: The response rate was 48%, with 375 FPs completing the survey. More than half of the responding FPs (56%) reported seeing 11 or more patients with mental health problems per week. Although 83% of responding FPs were interested or very interested in identifying or treating mental health problems, fewer than half (46%) reported being satisfied with the mental health care they were able to deliver. Family physician satisfaction was significantly higher among those with on-site MHPs (P < .05) and those who saw fewer patients with mental health problems per week (P < .01). The most common mode of interaction that FPs reported having with MHPs was through written correspondence; somewhat less common were telephone and face-to-face interactions. The most common strength FPs identified in their provision of mental health care was having access to psychiatrists, community mental health nurses, and other MHPs. The most common area for improvement in primary mental health care also fell under the category of access. Specifically, FPs felt access to psychiatrists needed to be improved. CONCLUSION: Mental health problems are very common in primary care. Most FPs are very interested in the detection and treatment of mental health problems. Despite this high level of interest, however, FPs are generally dissatisfied with the quality of mental health care they are able to provide. Access to MHPs was cited as a critical element in improving the delivery of mental health services in primary care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-889
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Family Physician
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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