Background: Primary care is being encouraged to implement multiprofessional, system level, chronic illness management approaches to depression. We undertook this study to identify and assess the quality of RCTs testing system level depression management interventions in primary care and to determine whether these interventions improve recovery.
Method: Searches of Medline and Cochrane Controlled Register of Trials. 'System level' interventions included: multi-professional approach, enhanced inter-professional communication, scheduled patient follow-up, structured management plan.
Results: 11 trials met all inclusion criteria. 10 were undertaken in the USA. Most focussed on antidepressant compliance. Quality of reporting assessed using CONSORT criteria was poor. Eight trials reported an increase in the proportion of patients recovered in favour of the intervention group, yet did not account for attrition rates ranging from 5 to 50%.
Conclusion: System level interventions implemented in the USA with patients willing to take anti-depressant medication leads to a modest increase in recovery from depression. The relevance of these interventions to countries with strong primary care systems requires testing in a randomised controlled trial.