What role do GPs play in treating back problems?

General practitioners (GPs) are usually the first point of contact with the health care system for people with back problems.

Management of back problems in general practice includes:

  • assessment of the condition(s)
  • referral to other health services (specialists, allied health practitioners, diagnostic testing and hospitals)
  • prescribing, advising and supplying medication, and
  • providing patient education.

Back problems are among the most commonly managed conditions in general practice [1]. In 2015–16, 3.1 of every 100 GP-patient encounters were for the management of back problems—about 3.7 million GP encounters. This has increased significantly from 2.6 of every 100 GP-patient encounters in 2006–07.

There is currently no nationally consistent primary health care data collection monitoring provision of care by GPs. Note that statistics on general practice activities based on Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) data are derived from a sample survey of GPs and their encounters with patients, and need to be interpreted with some caution.

Figure 1: Rate of back complaints managed by GPs, 2006–07 to 2015–16

The vertical bar chart shows that in 2015–16, 3.1 of every 100 GP–patient encounters were for the management of back problems. This has increased significantly from 2.6 of every 100 GP-patient encounters in 2006–07.

Source: [1] (Data table).

Reference

  1. Britt H, Miller GC, Bayram C, Henderson J, Valenti L, Harrison C et al. 2016. A decade of Australian general practice activity 2006–07 to 2015–16. General practice series no. 341. Sydney: Sydney University Press.