What are General Practitioners' views on their role when children and young people disclose a history of bullying in the community?
Bullying among children and young people (CYP) is a major public health concern which can lead to both physical and mental health consequences. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended integrated approaches to tackling bullying, including primary care and other health services. CYP may disclose episodes of bullying and seek help from their general practitioner (GP). However, there is currently little research on GPs’ views and perceptions on their role in dealing with these disclosures of bullying in primary care.
We aimed to explore GPs’ views about their role in dealing with disclosures of bullying by CYP, especially factors that have an impact on GPs’ roles. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs in primary care in England. Purposive sampling was used to achieve variation in GP age, professional status in the practice, profile of the patients served by the practice, practice size and location, and whether the GPs considered themselves to be ‘research active’. Data was collected until thematic saturation was reached and analysed using the constant comparative method.
Data from 14 semi-structured interviews revealed three main themes: Remaining Clinically Vigilant; Impact of Bullying in Schools vs. Cyberbullying; Training & Guidance on Dealing with Bullying. There was an encompassing feeling that dealing with disclosures of bullying came down to a GP’s clinical experience rather than guideline recommendations, which do not currently exist; and that bullying was a precipitating factor in presentations of CYP’s mental health issues. Such opportunities should include both the nature and health consequences of bullying, including cyberbullying, for which GPs felt ill prepared but which was reported to affect their practice.
GPs feel they have a role to play in managing and supporting the health of CYP who disclose bullying during consultations. However, they feel ill equipped in dealing with these disclosures due to lack of professional development opportunities and guidance on treating and managing the health consequences of bullying, which should include a knowledge and availability of specialist services to which CYP may be referred. There is a need for greater collaboration between primary care and the education system, which could provide for more effective support systems for CYP.