What role do GPs play in treating osteoarthritis?

General practitioners (GPs) are usually the first point of contact with the health care system for people with osteoarthritis [1] and they often play a coordinating role for the multidisciplinary management of osteoarthritis [2].

Management of osteoarthritis 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
  • providing patient education (on lifestyle modifications including risk modification and joint protection).

Osteoarthritis is among the most commonly managed conditions in general practice [3]. In 2015–16, 2.9 of every 100 GP–patient encounters were for the management of osteoarthritis—about 3.6 million GP encounters. This has not changed since 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 osteoarthritis managed by GPs, 2006–07 to 2015–16

The vertical bar chart shows that rate of management of osteoarthritis in general practice remained unchanged between 2006–07 and 2015–16, at 2.9 of every 100 GP-patient encounters.

Source: [3] (Data table).


  1. McKenzie S and Torkington A 2010. Osteoarthritis: management options in general practice. Australian Family Physician 39 (9):622–625.
  2. RACGP (The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners) 2009. Guideline for the non-surgical management of hip and knee osteoarthritis. Melbourne: RACGP.
  3. 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. 41. Sydney: Sydney University Press.