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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 58 (2016) 3, 190 - 197

New research

The general practitioner in charge of treatment of patients with bipolar disorder: an exploratory study

W.G. ter Meulen, H.M. Visser, P.J.M. Elders, R.W. Kupka

background The role of the general practitioner (gp) in the treatment of severe psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder (bd), is under discussion.
aim To investigate how many patients with a recognised bd are being treated for their illness exclusively in the setting of primary care and to find out how many patients are registrated as having bd on their gp’s file.
method We made an exploratory study in a gp’s database containing data for 14,254 Dutch adult patients in the Amsterdam over a period of 3.5 years (2010-2013).
results We found that the gp was in charge of the treatment of bd in less than one patient per practice. The percentage of patients officially recognised as having bd in the database we studied was 0.15%, a percentage that is much lower than the percentage of bd in the Dutch population as a whole. There are several possible explanations for this discrepancy.
conclusion Given these low numbers, it is unlikely that the gps can have adequate experience of giving their bd patients the latest type of treatment. In view of the increasing role played by gps in the treatment of bd, it is important that there is strong collaboration with specialised mental health care, and that a low threshold prevails for consultation and referral.

keywords bipolar disorder, general practitioner, primary care, treatment