Dutch policy aims to strengthen mental health care in general practices, to keep health care affordable. Recently, a new function (mental health nurses) and a new referral model for patients with mental health problems were introduced.
AIM: To explore to what extent the volume of mental health care in Dutch general practices has increased and to what extent the content changed in the period 2010-2015.
METHOD: This study employed: 1. analyses of medical records, and 2. a case study in a primary health care centre.
RESULTS: The number of general practices with at least one mental health nurse increased from 20% in 2010 to almost 90% in 2015. In the period 2010-2014, general practitioners (gps) and mental health nurses treated increasing numbers of patients with mental health problems. No task shifting from gps to mental health nurses was observed. In the period 2011-2015, the number of antidepressant prescriptions increased slightly. In 2014, gps in a well-prepared primary care centre allocated 87% of their patients with mental health problems to a treatment setting in line with the referral model.
CONCLUSION: Dutch general practices have recently provided more mental health care, thereby emphasising their important role in the mental health care system.