General practitioners’ experiences of providing somatic care for patients with severe mental illness: a qualitative study

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Background: Patients dealing with severe mental illnesses (SMI) often face suboptimal clinical outcomes and higher mortality rates due to a range of factors, including undetected physical health conditions. The provision of care for individuals with SMI is frequently disjointed, as they engage with diverse healthcare providers. Despite this fragmentation, primary care, particularly general practitioners (GPs), assumes a pivotal role in the care of SMI patients. Our study aimed to delve into the first-hand experiences of GPs in delivering somatic care to SMI patients, concentrating on the challenges they encounter and the strategies they employ to navigate these difficulties. Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews with fifteen GPs, utilizing a semi-structured interview guide, supplemented by ethnographic observations during clinical consultations in general practice. Through inductive coding, interview transcripts and observational field notes were systematically analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The findings were then deliberated upon within the author group. Results: GPs revealed that managing the chronic somatic care of SMI patients posed significant challenges. These challenges encompassed the multifaceted needs of patients, their behavior tied to symptoms, a lack of care continuity, and overarching time constraints. To tackle these challenges, the GPs had devised various strategies. However, all participants underscored the critical importance of having adequate time to properly prepare for, conduct, and follow up on consultations. Conclusion: The GPs’ interactions with SMI patients brought numerous challenges, although treating these patients were concurrently acknowledged as vital and fulfilling. The findings suggest that increased allocated time in general practice consultations for patients with SMI is important to support the somatic treatment requirements of this patient group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number96
JournalBMC Primary Care
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

    Research areas

  • Consultations, General practice, SMI, Somatic care

ID: 390412892