Vaccination and depression rates continue to climb

Vaccinations and depression are quickly moving up the scale of problems most commonly managed by doctors each year in general practice. Since 1990-91, vaccinations have jumped from number 6 to the third most common problem managed, and depression from 10th to fourth.

These facts and more can be found in the AIHW's General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit's first annual report, General Practice Activity in Australia 1998-99, to be launched in Adelaide on Friday at the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners' annual convention.

The report details about 100,000 doctor-patient encounters from a sample of 1000 GPs. It gives an insight into why people visit their GP, the health problems GPs manage, and what types of treatments general practice patients receive. The report comes from the BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation And Care of Health) program which is conducted by the University of Sydney in collaboration with the AIHW.

Director of the University's General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit, Professor Helena Britt, said increases in the frequency of vaccinations revealed positive trends. 'It shows that general practitioners are playing an important role in childhood immunisation, and in provision of flu vaccinations to the elderly and at risk patients,' Dr Britt said.

'For the first time, we're also able to see what advice GPs give about over the counter purchase of drugs and the extent to which they supply samples and vaccines themselves. For every 100 encounters, for example, the average GP prescribes 94 drugs, advises 7 for over the counter purchase and supplies 7 vaccines or samples.'

Other findings from General Practice Activity in Australia 1998-99 include:

  • While there are approximately 100 million GP consultations per year claimed through Medicare, the report estimates that GPs provide a further 5 million services that are not funded through Medicare or other insurance.
  • Antibiotics, and cardiovascular and central nervous system-related drugs were those most frequently prescribed by doctors.
  • The problems most commonly managed by doctors were hypertension (8.3 per 100 encounters), upper respiratory tract infection (6.8 per 100), vaccination (5.2 per 100), and depression (3.5 per 100).

Note: BEACH is supported by a consortium of organisations representing government and industry including: the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, AstraZeneca (Australia), the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Roche Products, Rhne Poulenc Rorer, and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission.

29 October 1999


Further information: A/Professor Helena Britt, ph. 04 1246 5585 or 04 1119 7938 (mob.).
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, ph. 02 6244 1032, or Media Office, University of Sydney, ph. 02 9351 2261.
Availability: Check the AIHW for details.