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Care of general practice patients preceding and following a suicide attempt: observational study in Flemish general practices

06 May 2019


First, to examine general practitioner (GP) knowledge about the care (needs) of their patients; second, to examine the quality of GP follow-up care; third, to examine the transmission of patient care information from hospitals/emergency services (ES) to GPs.


105 general practices from the representative Belgian Network of Sentinel General Practices (SGP) in Flanders, the largest region of Belgium, during 2013–2016.


245 suicide attempts by regular patients.

Outcomes measures

Ten care-related measures, including three indicators of quality of follow-up care, were based on data reported by the SGP on structured forms at baseline and at two follow-up points in time.


As for GP knowledge, 10.5% of SGP failed to report whether suicidal risk was noticed in patients seen in the month preceding the attempt; 9.0% whether there were previous attempts; 22.5% whether the patient was receiving mental health treatment at follow-up and 22.0% whether suicidal behaviour was repeated at follow-up. Relatively more patients≥65 years had no suicide risk evaluation (OR 3.54; 95% CI 1.11 to 11.26). As for quality of follow-up care, there was a GP–patient contact following 90.5% of the attempts, follow-up appointments were planned following 43.4% of the attempts and there was a GP contact with patient proxies following 62.8% of the attempts. Patient age ≥65 years (OR 4.09; 95% CI 1.79 to 9.33), a recent GP–patient contact preceding the attempt (OR 1.97; 95% CI 1.13 to 3.43), depression of patient (OR 1.96; 95% CI 1.14 to 3.37) and a suburban SGP area (OR 2.34; 95% CI 1.13 to 4.82) were determinants of an increased quality of care sum. GPs received patient care information from a hospital (ES) for 67.8% of eligible attempts, with SGP practice location being a determinant.


GPs are highly involved in the care of suicide attempters but there is room for improvement, also in informational continuity from hospital (ES) to GPs.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open