Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. Jul 1998; 48(432): 1383–1386.
PMCID: PMC1313129

'They think they can talk to nurses': practice nurses' views of their roles in caring for mental health problems.


BACKGROUND: Primary care teams have been encouraged to develop the care they provide to patients with mental health problems, and a greater role for practice nurses has been advocated. However, little is known about practice nurses' current level of involvement or their perceived strengths and limitations in caring for patients' mental health problems. AIM: To describe practice nurses' current experiences of caring for patients with mental health problems and to explore their perceptions about enlarging this role. METHOD: Pilot interviews were carried out with a purposeful sample of practice nurses to design a postal questionnaire, which was then sent to 635 practice nurses identified from family health services authority lists in six health authorities in the north-east of England. RESULTS: Completed questionnaires were returned by 445 (70%) practice nurses. Most nurses (83%) reported that they commonly saw patients with a range of mental health problems arising indirectly or directly in consultations. Many practice nurses (52%) lacked any formal mental health training and identified a broad range of training needs. A majority (80%) of responders had concerns about their abilities to address mental health problems effectively, given their existing workloads. However, most (61%) were keen to expand their role in mental health care if appropriate support and training were forthcoming. CONCLUSION: There is considerable potential for practice nurses to realize a greater and more effective role in the care of mental health problems in primary care. Developing practice nurses' contribution will require further training and support.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (30K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Dowrick C. Improving mental health through primary care. Br J Gen Pract. 1992 Sep;42(362):382–386. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Jeffreys LA, Clark AL, Koperski M. Practice nurses' workload and consultation patterns. Br J Gen Pract. 1995 Aug;45(397):415–418. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Wilkinson G, Allen P, Marshall E, Walker J, Browne W, Mann AH. The role of the practice nurse in the management of depression in general practice: treatment adherence to antidepressant medication. Psychol Med. 1993 Feb;23(1):229–237. [PubMed]
  • Kendrick T, Burns T, Freeling P. Randomised controlled trial of teaching general practitioners to carry out structured assessments of their long term mentally ill patients. BMJ. 1995 Jul 8;311(6997):93–98. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Greenfield S, Stilwell B, Drury M. Practice nurses: social and occupational characteristics. J R Coll Gen Pract. 1987 Aug;37(301):341–345. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Hibble A. Practice nurse workload before and after the introduction of the 1990 contract for general practitioners. Br J Gen Pract. 1995 Jan;45(390):35–37. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Ross FM, Bower PJ, Sibbald BS. Practice nurses: characteristics, workload and training needs. Br J Gen Pract. 1994 Jan;44(378):15–18. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Drury M, Greenfield S, Stilwell B, Hull FM. A nurse practitioner in general practice: patient perceptions and expectations. J R Coll Gen Pract. 1988 Nov;38(316):503–505. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Jewell D, Turton P. What's happening to practice nursing? BMJ. 1994 Mar 19;308(6931):735–736. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Koperski M, Rogers S, Drennan V. Nurse practitioners in general practice--an inevitable progression? Br J Gen Pract. 1997 Nov;47(424):696–698. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Pearson P, Jones K. The primary health care non-team. BMJ. 1994 Nov 26;309(6966):1387–1388. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...