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Br J Gen Pract. Feb 1996; 46(403): 105–107.
PMCID: PMC1239540

The biopsychosocial model of general practice: rhetoric or reality?


BACKGROUND: For more than 20 years, general practitioners have been encouraged to adopt a 'biopsychosocial' model of health care, that is, encompassing physical, psychological and social aspects. AIM: A study was undertaken to explore the extent to which general practitioners' views about the acceptable boundaries of their work are consistent with a biopsychosocial model. METHOD: A semi-structured postal questionnaire was sent to all 494 members of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Mersey Region who were general practitioner principals. The general practitioners were asked to list up to three topics presented by patients that they considered to be appropriate, and up to three topics that they considered to be inappropriate, to a general practitioner's knowledge and skills. The general practitioners were asked to rate, on a five-point scale of appropriateness, each of a list of 12 topics about which patients might have problems and present. Responses were analysed by sex and age of respondents. RESULTS: The response rate was 42%. Acute physical problems were most often listed appropriate by respondents, followed by chronic physical and psychological problems. The topics most often considered inappropriate were bureaucracy and social issues. Among the list of 12 specified topics, respondents considered terminal care and hypertension to be more appropriate than housing issues, spiritual worries, welfare rights or political issues. The sex of respondents did not relate to differences in results. Respondents aged 35 years and over generally considered topics presented by their patients to be more appropriate than did their younger colleagues. CONCLUSION: The general practitioner respondents in this study appeared to hold the view that general practitioners should work to a bio(psycho) rather than a biopsychosocial model of health care.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Engel GL. The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model. Am J Psychiatry. 1980 May;137(5):535–544. [PubMed]
  • Charlton BG. Holistic medicine or the humane doctor? Br J Gen Pract. 1993 Nov;43(376):475–477. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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