Loss of doctor-to-doctor communication: Lessons from the reconfiguration of mental health services in England

Carolyn Chew-Graham, Mike Slade, Carolyn McCrorie, Mairi Stewart, Linda Gask

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To explore the tensions across the primary-secondary interface when referral from primary care is to a team and to inform service developments in other specialties. Methods A nested qualitative study within a randomized controlled trial of primary care and Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) in Croydon and Manchester, UK. For the qualitative study, interviews were carried out with general practitioners (GPs), psychiatrists and managers or clinical leads of the CMHTs. Results GPs described the need for access to specialist knowledge, which they perceived to lie with the psychiatrist, and referral to a team was not perceived to allow this access. A personal threshold was identified by GPs after which they referred the patient to secondary care. CMHTs and psychiatrists recognized that this personal threshold differed between GPs, but their criteria for accepting referrals did not seem to allow for a flexible response to referral requests, leading to the referral being labelled as ‘inappropriate’. The lack of direct doctor-to-doctor communication was perceived by respondents to contribute to a fragmentation of patient care. Strategies were described whereby the system was bypassed to achieve doctor-to-doctor communication, which undermined the team. Conclusions Development of intermediate or ‘Tier 2’ services beyond the mental health services, where the GP refers to a team rather than to a specialist (hospital consultant) could benefit from reflecting on experiences with mental health services. There is a danger that new community services for the physically ill will engender the same level of confusion and discontent described by GPs and other health professionals in this study who are concerned with mental health care. Flexibility is needed within care pathways, including the provision of direct doctor-to-doctor communication together with approaches to minimize the marginalization of non-medical professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-12
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Health Services Research & Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

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