Intended for healthcare professionals

Primary Care

Routinely administered questionnaires for depression and anxiety: systematic review

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 17 February 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:406
  1. Simon M Gilbody, MRC fellow in health services research (s.m.gilbody{at},
  2. Allan O House, professor liaison psychiatryb,
  3. Trevor A Sheldon, headc
  1. a NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York YO10 5DD
  2. b Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, University of Leeds LS2 9LT
  3. c Department of Health Studies, University of York
  1. Correspondence to: S M Gilbody Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, University of Leeds LS2 9LT
  • Accepted 1 December 2000


Objectives: To examine the effect of routinely administered psychiatric questionnaires on the recognition, management, and outcome of psychiatric disorders in non-psychiatric settings.

Data sources: Embase, Medline, PsycLIT, Cinahl, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, and hand searches of key journals.

Methods: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials of the administration and routine feedback of psychiatric screening and outcome questionnaires to clinicians in non-psychiatric settings. Narrative overview of key design features and end points, together with a random effects quantitative synthesis of comparable studies.

Main outcome measures: Recognition of psychiatric disorders after feedback of questionnaire results; interventions for psychiatric disorders; and outcome of psychiatric disorders.

Results: Nine randomised studies were identified that examined the use of common psychiatric instruments in primary care and general hospital settings. Studies compared the effect of the administration of these instruments followed by the feedback of the results to clinicians, with administration with no feedback. Meta-analytic pooling was possible for four of these studies (2457 participants), which measured the effect of feedback on the recognition of depressive disorders. Routine administration and feedback of scores for all patients (irrespective of score) did not increase the overall rate of recognition of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (relative risk of detection of depression by clinician after feedback 0.95, 95% confidence interval 0.83 to 1.09). Two studies showed that routine administration followed by selective feedback for only high scorers increased the rate of recognition of depression (relative risk of detection of depression after feedback 2.64, 1.62 to 4.31). This increased recognition, however, did not translate into an increased rate of intervention. Overall, studies of routine administration of psychiatric measures did not show an effect on patient outcome.

Conclusions: The routine measurement of outcome is a costly exercise. Little evidence shows that it is of benefit in improving psychosocial outcomes of those with psychiatric disorder managed in non-psychiatric settings.


  • Funding SMG is supported by the UK Medical Research Council Health Services research training fellowship programme.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Embedded Image Details of the search terms and studies appear on the BMJ's website

  • Accepted 1 December 2000
View Full Text