A qualitative study of Australian GPs' attitudes and practices in the diagnosis and management of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Fam Pract. 2003 Apr;20(2):129-34. doi: 10.1093/fampra/20.2.129.


Background: The importance of general practice involvement in the care of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is increasing due to the rising numbers of patients who present with the disorder. It has been suggested by consensus bodies that GPs should be identifying and referring patients at the severe end of the ADHD spectrum and managing those with less severe symptoms. However, GPs' views of their role in ADHD care are unknown.

Objective: Our aim was to explore the attitudes and practices of Australian GPs towards the diagnosis and management of ADHD.

Methods: We conducted a series of focus groups to explore GPs' beliefs regarding the causes of ADHD, their perceived role in ADHD diagnosis and management and their views on the role of behaviour therapies and pharmacotherapies in ADHD management. The subjects were 28 GPs in six focus groups.

Results: GPs in this study did not want to be the primary providers of care for patients with ADHD. Participants indicated a preference to refer the patient to medical specialists for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, and expressed low levels of interest in becoming highly involved in ADHD care. Concerns about overdiagnosis and misdiagnosis of the disorder, diagnostic complexity, time constraints, insufficient education and training about the disorder, and concerns regarding misuse and diversion of stimulant medications were the reasons cited for their lack of willingness.

Conclusions: The Australian GPs in this study identify a role for themselves in ADHD care which is largely supportive in nature, and involves close liaison with specialist services.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Specialization