“Making Every Contact Count” (MECC), a public health policy in the UK, compels healthcare professionals to deliver opportunistic health behaviour change interventions to patients during routine medical consultations. Professionals’ awareness of, and engagement with, the policy is unclear. This study examined (1) awareness of the MECC policy, and (2) the prevalence of MECC-related practice in relation to (a) perceived patient benefit, (b) how often healthcare professionals deliver interventions during routine consultations, and (c) the time spent on this activity.
Cross-sectional national survey was administered in 2017 of 1387 healthcare professionals working in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Descriptive statistics were used to assess awareness and practice consistent with the MECC policy. Chi-square was used to gauge the potential representativeness of our sample compared to NHS employment data.
31.4% of healthcare professionals reported having heard of the policy; nevertheless, healthcare professionals perceived a need to provide patients with opportunistic behaviour change interventions in 55.9% (32,946/58,906) of consultations. However, healthcare professionals did not deliver interventions on 50.0% of occasions in which they perceived a need. Where behaviour change interventions were delivered to patients, this constituted 35.3% of the appointment time.
Policy makers must address the gap between the proportion of patients that healthcare professionals perceive would benefit from opportunistic behaviour change interventions and those receiving them (an estimated 50.0%; 16,473 additional patients could have benefited). Future research should consider how healthcare professionals identify patients who might benefit from opportunistic behaviour change interventions and developing training for efficient delivery of interventions.