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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2004 Oct;38(10):781-8.

The rates and management of psychological problems in Australian general practice.

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  • 1Family Medicine Research Centre, University of Sydney, P.O. Box 533, Wentworthville 2145, New South Wales, Australia.



General practitioners (GPs) provide the majority of care for people's mental health problems. The recently introduced Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care initiative aims to improve the quality of mental health care in general practice. This study examines current GP management of psychological problems and any changes in their management in the decade leading up to this initiative.


Current practice was examined through a secondary analysis of the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) (2000-02) data. We compared BEACH data with the Australian Morbidity and Treatment Survey (1990-1991) to investigate management changes over the past decade.


Between April 2000 and March 2002, psychological problems were managed at a rate of 11.5/100 encounters. Problems most commonly managed were mood disorders, stress-related disorders, behavioural syndromes and disorders due to psychoactive substances. Prescriptions occurred at a rate of 69.5/100 contacts and clinical treatments at a rate of 50.0/100 contacts with psychological problems from 1990 to 1991. The management rate of psychological problems increased from 9683/100,000 encounters (95% CI=9129- 10,237) in 1990-1991 to 11 557 (11,136-11 977) in 2000-2002. Prescription rates (from 63.3, 95% CI=60.5-66.1 to 69.1, 95% CI=67.1-71.1) and clinical treatments (from 36.0, 95% CI =33.4-38.7 to 53.1, 95% CI =51.3-54.9) increased.


This study shows that prior to the introduction of the Better Outcomes in Mental Health initiative changes had already occurred in rates and management of psychological problems in general practice. It also provides a baseline from which future research can measure the impact of the recent reforms on mental health care.

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