Effect of implementation of mental health services within primary care on GP detection and treatment of mental disorders in Israel

Neil Laufer*, Nelly Zilber, Pablo Jeczmien, Royi Gilad, Shai Gur, Hanan Munitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Psychiatric morbidity is frequent in primary care, but a substantial proportion of these psychiatric problems appear to be neither recognized nor adequately treated by GPs. There exists a number of models of introduction of mental health services (MHS) into primary care, but little data are available on their effect on GPs’ detection or management of mental disorders. The study aimed to measure the effect of referring patients to a psychiatrist within primary care (Shifted OutPatient model—SOP) or consultation of psychiatrists by the GPs (Psychiatric Community Consultation Liaison—PCCL) on the detection and treatment of mental disorders by GPs. Methods: In six primary care clinics in Israel (three “SOP clinics” and three “PCCL clinics”), GP detection of mental disorders and treatment of GP-detected cases were evaluated before and after provision of 1-year MHS, according to GP questionnaires on a sample of primary care consecutive attenders whose psychological distress was determined according to the GHQ12 and psychiatric disorders according to the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Results: After model implementation, a significant reduction in detection of mental disorders was found in SOP clinics, while no significant change was found in PCCL clinics. No significant change in detection of distress was found in any clinic. An increase in referrals to MHS for GP-diagnosed depression and anxiety cases, a reduction in GP counselling for GP-detected cases and those with diagnosed anxiety, an increased prescription of antidepressants and a reduced prescription of antipsychotics were found in SOP clinics. In PCCL clinics, no significant changes in GP management were observed except an increase in referral of GP-diagnosed depression cases to MHS. Conclusions: MHS models did not improve GP detection of mental disorders or distress, but possibly improved referral case mix. The SOP model might have a deskilling influence on GPs, resulting from less involvement in treatment, with decrease of detection and counselling. This should be taken into consideration when planning to increase referrals to a psychiatrist within primary care settings. Lack of positive effect of the PCCL model might be overcome by more intensive programs incorporating educational components.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Detection
  • GPs
  • Mental disorders
  • Mental health service models
  • Primary care
  • Treatment


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