GM CLAHRC research awarded top prize from the Royal College of GPs

A research paper from the GM CLAHRC practitioner research theme has been awarded the 2011 Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and Novartis Research Paper of the Year Award in the Mental Health category.

The paper entitled, Talking about depression: a qualitative study of barriers to managing depression in people with long term conditions in primary care, was published in the BMC (BioMed Central) Family Practice journal. It explores how health care professionals and patients conceptualise depression when it co-exists with chronic medical conditions (in this case coronary heart disease or diabetes)  and identifies the main barriers to detecting and treating depression.

Dr Iona Heath, President of the RCGP presented the authors of the paper – Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham (Professor of Primary Care at the University of Manchester and Curriculum Guardian for Mental Health, RCGP) and Dr Peter Coventry (Research Fellow at the University of Manchester) – with their award at a formal ceremony at The Honourable Artillery Company, Armoury House in London on 18 June 2012.

The paper explains how previous research has suggested that people with long-term conditions (LTCs) are at least twice as likely to experience depression than those who are relatively healthy. Depression is known to negatively impact on the way people with LTCs manage their illnesses, leading to greater use of healthcare services (such as GP visits and attendance at Accident and Emergency departments), poorer quality of life and greater disability, and worse prognosis. Thus detection and appropriate management of depression is vital to improve patient outcome.

The study, led by Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, described a number of barriers to detecting and managing depression. These included the way primary care is organised and the structure of consultations, making it difficult for primary healthcare providers to discuss depression in meaningful ways, as well as patients finding it difficult to accept depression as a “label” for their emotional symptoms.

Dr Peter Coventry explained: “Practitioners and patients differed in their ability to explain and recognise depression in the presence of LTCs, but both tended to see depression as a normal and understandable response to the associated LTCs. The findings show us that there’s a need to find a more collaborative approach, drawing in help from mental health professionals, to managing depression in patients with LTCs.”

Award Panel Chair, Professor Frank Sullivan, said: “In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis in primary care on improving the recognition and treatment of depression in people with LTCs. This paper examined the topic in depth, approaching it from a wide range of perspectives by engaging with a number of key stakeholders. It provides valuable insights into approaching and addressing these issues with patients suffering depression linked to chronic conditions.”