12:36pm Tuesday 12 December 2017

Australian GPs working harder than a decade ago

“Patients are having longer, more complicated consultations now than a decade ago,” said Associate Professor Helena Britt, director of the BEACH program at University of Sydney.

“GPs today manage 158 problems for every 100 patient encounters, which has risen from 145 problems ten years ago.

“Most Australians (85%) saw a GP in the last year. These people had an average of seven consultations in that period.

“GPs are working much harder than they were a decade ago,” she said.

On average at 100 GP encounters

2013 – 2014

2004 – 2005

Problems managed

158

145

Medications prescribed

83

83

Medications supplied directly to patient (mostly vaccines)

10

8

Advised purchase of over the counter medications

9

10

Provided clinical treatments such as advice and counselling

38

39

Procedures undertaken

19

15

Referrals to specialist

10

8

Referrals to allied health professionals

5

3

Pathology tests ordered

49

37

X-rays ordered

11

8

Source: General practice activity in Australia 2013-14

Two reports published today from the Family Medicine Research Centre at the University explore the activities of Australian GPs and the care of their patients in ‘General practice activity in Australia 2013-14’, and ‘A decade of Australian general practice 2004-05 to 2013-14’.

The data comes from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program, which continuously collects information about clinical activities of GPs in Australia.

Dr Liz Marles, a general practitioner and past President of the RACGP said: “This new data highlights the increasingly complex work that GPs do. In any given visit, a GP is dealing with multiple complex problems and treating more chronic conditions than ever before.

“GPs are most people’s first port of call for their health problems. They deal with everything from health checks, immunisations, coughs and colds and mild illnesses, to long term chronic disease management and palliative care of the dying.

“As the life expectancy of Australians continues to rise, people are living longer with disease. Therefore, a greater part of the GP workload involves managing older patients with multiple chronic conditions.

“In 2013-14, older patients accounted for about a third of the GPs clinical workload. In the past decade this has increased from 26.5 per cent of GPs’ caseload to 32.5 per cent today. In particular, we have seen a doubling in the number of patients aged over 85 years.

“GPs are also spending more time looking after conditions related to increased weight and an ageing population.

“The increasing incidence of overweight and obesity (now at 63 per cent of adults) may be linked with the rise in consultations for depression, diabetes, and reflux. High blood pressure, which is also related to age and obesity, is the most common chronic problem managed by GPs.

“Being a GP is now a more complicated area of medicine due to people having multiple illnesses. Consultations nowadays are rarely quick simple – in fact only three per cent of GPs’ consulting time requires brief consultations of six minutes or less,” Dr Marles said.

Fast facts:

The BEACH study collects details of about 100,000 nationally representative GP-patient encounters.

– Each year about 85 per cent of Australians visit a general practitioner (GP) at least once

– Over the decade 2004-14, the Australian population increased from 20.1 to 23.1 million (16 per cent increase)

– The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over increased by 27 per cent in the last decade

– In 2013-14, older patients accounted for about a third of the GPs clinical workload, while children (under fifteen years) accounted for only 11 per cent.

– The number of general practice items of service claimed through Medicare in the last ten years increased from 98.2 million to 133.4 million – a 35.8 per cent increase

– In 2013-14, the Federal Government spent more than $6.3 billion on 133.4 million general practice services

– GPs are getting older, and there are more female GPs than there were ten years ago.

Contact details: A/Professor Helena Britt 0411 197 938, 9845 8150, or helena.britt@sydney.edu.au

Media enquiries: Kobi Print 9036 7589, 0481 012 729, or kobi.print@sydney.edu.au


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