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Care of general practice patients preceding and following a suicide attempt: observational study in Flemish general practices
  1. Nicole Boffin,
  2. Viviane Van Casteren,
  3. Karin De Ridder
  1. Epidemiology and Public Health, Sciensano, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicole Boffin; nicole.boffin{at}


Objectives 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.

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

Participants 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.

Results 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.

Conclusions 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.

  • suicide attempts
  • general practice
  • quality of care
  • Belgium

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  • Contributors NB and VVC were involved in the study conception, study design, data collection, interpretation of results and finalisation of the manuscript. KDR was involved in the critical revision of the manuscript. NB and KDR were also involved in the data analyses and writing the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The Belgian network of SGP was approved as a whole by the Ethical Committees of the Scientific Society of Flemish GPs and the Catholic University of Louvain.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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