News

GPs' record card: fewer scripts, more jabs!


22 November 2011

General practitioners are getting busier, extremely so. Doctors are writing fewer scripts, but carrying out more vaccinations, managing more age-related health issues, and more diabetes and depression, according to figures released today by the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program, at the University of Sydney's Family Medicine Research Centre.

Two reports published from the BEACH program General practice activity in Australia 2010-11 and A decade of general practice 2001-02 to 2010-11 provide data on the activities of the nation's GPs and their dealings with patients.

According to the lead author Associate Professor Helena Britt, the figures published in the reports show our GPs handled approximately 118 million visits in 2010-2011, an average of more than five visits per Australian.

"The most commonly managed medical problems included hypertension, immunisation or vaccinations, upper respiratory tract infections, depression, diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol, as well as general checkups," states Associate Professor Britt.

GPs are also managing chronic conditions more often, compared to a decade ago.

A decade of general practice 2001-02 to 2010-11 shows that patients aged 45 years and over, particularly the more senior patients, are taking up an increasing proportion of the GP workload.

Compared with 10 years ago:

  • patient presentations about their diabetes increased by 40 percent
  • presentations about depression increased by 15 percent
  • patient requests for a new or continuation referral have doubled.

However:

  • GPs provided five to six fewer prescriptions for every 100 problems
  • the number of problems managed at each visit increased
  • GPs provided more advice and counselling about smoking and less general counselling
  • GPs referred their patients more often to medical specialists (particularly cardiologists) and allied health services (including physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, and dentists)
  • orders for pathology tests by GPs increased by 37 percent.

In a sub-sample of more than 30,000 adults:

  • the prevalence of daily smoking decreased (from 18 percent to 15 percent)
  • the number of obese (to 27 percent) and overweight (to 35 percent) patients increased - making approximately 62 percent of adults attending GPs overweight or obese
  • over the decade the prevalence of at-risk alcohol consumption in adults remained steady at about 26 percent.

Changes to general practice as a business showed a continued move away from solo practice to larger practices of five to nine GPs. GPs are working fewer clinical hours per week, though the average consultation still lasts about 15 minutes. In 2010-11 GPs were less likely to provide their own, or co-operative after-hours care with other practices, and more likely instead to use deputising services than in 2001-02.

General practice activity in Australia 2010-11 and A decade of Australian general practice activity 2001-02 to 2011-11 are available today.


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Media enquiries: Kath Kenny (Mon, Wed, Thurs), 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au

Victoria Hollick (Tues, Fri), 0401 711 361, 02 9351 2579, victoria.hollick@sydney.edu.au