What role do GPs play in treating asthma?

General practitioners (GPs) play a central role in the management of asthma in the community.

This role includes assessment, diagnosis, prescription of regular medications, education, provision of written action plans, and regular review as well as managing asthma flare-ups. Asthma-related visits to GPs may occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • the acute or reactive management of asthma symptoms
  • a review during or following a fare-up
  • a review or initiation of a written action plan
  • a visit for maintenance activities, such as monitoring and prescription of regular medications
  • referral to other health professionals.

A survey in 2012 of 2,686 Australians aged 16 and older with current asthma identified that 29% had needed urgent health care for asthma in the previous year [2]. Of these, 23% had urgent need to see their GP, 10% their emergency department or hospital, with 4% needing one or more nights in hospital because of their asthma.

According to the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey, asthma was one of the most frequently managed chronic problems in the decade up to 2015–16 [1].

In the ten year period 2006–07 to 2015–16, the estimated rate of asthma management in general practice declined from 2.3 in 100 encounters to 2.0 in 100 encounters (Figure 1). The BEACH survey gathers information from a random sample of GPs in Australia. An 'encounter' is a consultation between a patient and a GP.

There is currently no nationally consistent primary health care data collection to monitor provision of care by GPs. Note that statistics on general practice activities based on 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: General practice encounters for asthma, all ages, 2006–07 to 2015–16

The horizontal line chart shows that between 2006–07 and 2015–16, the estimated rate of general practice encounters for asthma declined slightly from 2.3 to 2.0 per 100 encounters.


  1. The Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) year is April to March.
  2. Asthma is classified according to International Classification of Primary Care, 2nd edition (ICPC-2) code R96.

Source: [1] (Data table).


  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. 41. Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  2. Reddel HK, Sawyer SM, Everett PW, Flood PV, Peters MJ 2015. Asthma control in Australia: a cross-sectional web-based survey in a nationally representative population. Medical Journal of Australia; 202:492–7.