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Br J Gen Pract. Mar 1999; 49(440): 187–190.
PMCID: PMC1313369

Our Healthier Nation: are general practitioners willing and able to deliver? A survey of attitudes to and involvement in health promotion and lifestyle counselling.


BACKGROUND: The recent Green Paper, Our Healthier Nation, identifies professional advice on healthier living as a key component of its national contract for health. General practitioners (GPs) are ideally placed for this work. However, previous research has reported a discrepancy between patients' expectations of lifestyle advice from GPs and their receipt of such advice. AIMS: To describe GPs' current attitudes to and involvement in health promotion and lifestyle counselling, and to track changes in these areas over recent years. METHOD: A postal questionnaire survey of a random sample of 430 GPs, one per practice, from all general practices in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire. GPs who had not responded after two weeks received a reminder telephone call plus two follow-up questionnaires. RESULTS: Four hundred and eleven GPs were eligible for the survey, which yielded a response rate of 68% (n = 279). GPs reported spending an average 16% of practice time on prevention and 79% reported educating patients about lifestyle risk 'most' or 'all of the time'. Solo GPs spent more time on prevention than GPs from group practices. Most enquiries and interventions related to smoking behaviour. GPs felt most effective in changing patients' use of prescription drugs, and the largest reported difference between current and potential effectiveness in helping patient change lifestyle behaviour, after information and training, related to reducing alcohol consumption. CONCLUSIONS: Despite an increasing workload, GPs remain positive about health promotion and lifestyle counselling. Over the past 10 years, there has been an increase in routine enquiries about lifestyle behaviour, but confidence about effectiveness in helping patients changes lifestyle behaviour remains low. More training and support concerning lifestyle intervention is required by GPs in order for them to contribute effectively to the Government's health promotion programme.

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Selected References

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