Primary care physicians (PCPs) play a key role in the initial assessment and management of children and adolescents with mental health problems. However, it is unclear whether current medical education curricula sufficiently equip PCPs for this task. The aim of this study was to investigate, which child and adolescent psychiatry (CAP)-related skills and knowledge PCPs say they require in their daily practice. A questionnaire was generated, employing a modified two-step Delphi approach. Besides socio-demographic items, the questionnaire contained 17 CAP-related knowledge items and 13 CAP-related skills items, which had to be rated by importance in daily practice. The questionnaire was distributed to 348 office-based paediatricians and 500 general practitioners (GPs) in Germany. The overall return rate was 51.3% (435/848). Regarding CAP-related knowledge, both paediatricians and GPs rated somatoform disorders and obesity as highly important for daily practice. Moreover, paediatricians also deemed regulatory disorders during infancy (e.g. crying, sleep disorders) as important, while GPs assessed knowledge on paediatric depression as relevant. For paediatricians and GPs, the most relevant CAP-related skills were communicating with children and adolescents and their parents. Additionally, paediatricians rated differentiating between non-pathologic and clinically relevant behaviour problems very relevant, while GPs considered basic psychotherapeutic skills essential. The CAP-related knowledge and skills perceived relevant for doctors in primary care differ from the majority of current medical school CAP curricula, which cover mainly typical, epitomic CAP disorders and are predominantly knowledge-oriented. Therefore, medical education in CAP should be amended to reflect the needs of PCPs to improve healthcare for children and adolescents with mental health problems.
Keywords: General practitioner; Health services research; Medical education; Mental health care; Paediatrician; Primary health care.