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

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Brian McAvoy, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD, Dr Katie Haighton, Dr Eilish Gilvarry


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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 patients 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 change 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kaner EFS; Lock CA; Gilvarry E; McAvoy BR; Heather N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of General Practice

Year: 1999

Volume: 49

Issue: 440

Pages: 187-190

Print publication date: 01/03/1999

ISSN (print): 0960-1643

ISSN (electronic): 1478-5242

Publisher: Royal College of General Practitioners