Research Article

Counsellors in English and Welsh general practices: their nature and distribution.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 02 January 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:29
  1. B Sibbald,
  2. J Addington-Hall,
  3. D Brenneman,
  4. P Freeling
  1. Division of General Practice and Primary Care, St George's Hospital Medical School, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To establish the prevalence of counselling services in English and Welsh general practices and factors associated with their distribution; to describe qualifications, working arrangements, and case mix of "counsellors." DESIGN--Postal questionnaire and telephone interview survey of a sample of about one in 20 general practitioners in England and Wales. SETTING--English and Welsh general practices. SUBJECTS--1880 general practitioners of whom 1542 (82%) completed questionnaires. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Prevalence and distribution of practice counselling services; counsellors' qualifications and funding; types of patients referred. RESULTS--586 counsellors were distributed among 484 of the 1542 practices. Three types of counsellor predominated: community psychiatric nurses (187); "practice counsellors" (145); and clinical psychologists (95). Practice characteristics which independently predicted the presence of a counsellor were for community psychiatric nurses four or more partners (odds = 1.72, 95% confidence interval 1.18 to 2.26); for practice counsellors stress clinic (odds = 2.22; 1.83 to 2.61), training practice (odds = 1.70; 1.24 to 2.16), and health region (chi 2 = 55.94; df = 14; p < 0.001); and for clinical psychologists list size of > or = 10,500 (odds = 1.79; 1.09 to 2.49), training practice (odds = 1.78; 1.31 to 2.25), health region (chi 2 = 48.31; df = 14; p < 0.001). 197 counsellors had training in counselling. The qualifications of 85 were unknown to the general practitioner. The principal source of funding was the district health authority for community psychiatric nurses (150) and clinical psychologists (58) and the family health services authority for practice counsellors (76). All counsellors were referred a wide range of problems. CONCLUSIONS--Counselling services are wide-spread in general practice, but a high proportion of counsellors lack qualifications, and many may be referred problems outside their knowledge.