Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Discussing spiritual health in primary care and the HOPE tool - A mixed methods survey of GP views

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Orla Whitehead, Emerita Professor Carol Jagger, Professor Barbara Hanratty



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022 Whitehead et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Background: In the UK, the General Medical Council (GMC) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) require doctors to consider spiritual health in their consultations. There are documented barriers to discussion of spiritual health, and suggested tools to help overcome them. Aim: To investigate how comfortable general practitioners (GPs) feel about discussing spiritual health in the consultation, and whether a structured tool (the HOPE tool) would be helpful. Design and setting A mixed-methods online survey completed by GPs in England. Method: A mixed methods online survey of practicing GPs in England asked about current comfort with the topic of spiritual health and use of spiritual history-taking tools. The acceptability of the HOPE tool was investigated using patient vignettes drawn from clinical practice. Results: 177 GPs responded. 88 (49.71%) reported that they were comfortable asking patients about spiritual health. GPs felt most comfortable raising the topic after a patient cue (mean difference between pre and post cue 26%). The HOPE tool was viewed as acceptable to use with patients by 65% of participants, although its limitations were acknowledged. Qualitative data showed concerns about regulator (the GMC) and peer disapproval were major barriers to discussions, especially in the case of discordance between patient and doctor background. Conclusion: Only half of GPs are comfortable discussing spiritual health. Dedicated training, using a structured approach, with regulatory approval, may help overcome barriers to GPs discussing spiritual health. Further research into the benefits, and risks, of discussion of spiritual health in the GP consultation is recommended.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead IO, Jagger C, Hanratty B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2022

Volume: 17

Issue: 11

Online publication date: 08/11/2022

Acceptance date: 03/10/2022

Date deposited: 15/06/2023

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0276281

PubMed id: 36346826


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
Easington Clinical Commissioning Group
HEE REF 0150/8116
Health Education North East and Durham Dales
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration