Green, Helen, Johnston, Olwyn, Cabrini, Sara, Fornai, Gemma and Kendrick, Tony
General practitioner attitudes towards referral of eating-disordered patients: a vignette study based on the theory of planned behaviour
Mental Health in Family Medicine, 5, (4), .
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The study examined individual differences between general practitioners (GPs) to determine their impact on variations in intention to refer a hypothetical patient with disordered eating to specialist eating disorder services. The study also examined the impact of patient weight on intention to refer.
GPs within three primary care trusts (PCTs) were posted a vignette depicting a patient with disordered eating, described as either normal weight or underweight. A questionnaire was developed from the theory of planned behaviour to assess the GPs' attitudes, perception of subjective norms, perceived behavioural control, and intention to refer the patient. Demographic details were also collected.
Responses were received from 88 GPs (33%). Intention to refer the patient was significantly related to subjective norms and cognitive attitudes. Together these predictors explained 86% of the variance in the intention to refer. GP or practice characteristics did not have a significant effect on the GPs' intention to refer, and nor did the patient's weight.
Despite National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence current guidance, patient weight did not influence GPs' decisions to refer. Much of the variance in actual referral behaviour may be explained by cognitive attitudes and subjective norms. Interventions to reduce this variation should be focused on informing GPs about actual norms, and best practice guidelines.
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