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Keywords:

  • primary health care;
  • mental disorder;
  • training;
  • Saudi Arabia

In order to evaluate the effect of training primary health care (PHC) physicians to recognize mental disorders, an intervention randomized controlled trial was conducted. Three categories of PHC physicians were selected: the index group (n=12 doctors), control group 1 (n=12) and control group 2 (n=4). For 1 week randomly selected patients from all trial centres were asked to complete the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28), and the three groups of doctors were asked to identify the presence of and rate the severity of any mental disorder in these patients. The same process was repeated for all three groups after a 6-month training course which was provided for the index group only. The doctors’ ability to detect mental disorders was measured by calculating Spearman's correlation coefficient between their severity rating and the GHQ scores of their patients. Training produced a noticeable improvement in the diagnostic accuracy of the index group, whereas there was minimal improvement in control group 1 and deterioration in control group 2. Recommendations to improve the ability of PHC physicians to detect mental disorders are discussed.