Service profiles of general practitioners in Europe. European GP Task Profile Study

W G Boerma, J van der Zee, D M Fleming
British Journal of General Practice 1997, 47 (421): 481-6

BACKGROUND: General practice is the focal point of primary care. There are national differences in the structure and organization of practice, the relationship with secondary care is being redefined, and in some countries major changes are taking place.

AIM: To describe and examine differences in the service profiles of general practitioners (GPs) in European countries.

METHOD: Standardized questionnaires in the national languages were sent to samples of GPs in 1993. Four areas of service provision were measured: the GP's position in the first contact with selected health problems, the involvement in minor surgery and the application of medical procedures, disease management and preventive care. The importance of the gatekeeping role, remuneration system, and geographical region in Europe was examined by comparing scores in appropriate national groupings.

RESULTS: Data were received from 7233 GPs in 30 countries. Most national samples were random and the average response rate was 47%. In countries where GPs have a gatekeeping role, they had a relatively stronger position as doctors of first contact. In those countries where GPs were usually self-employed, they had a stronger role in disease management and screening for blood cholesterol. In the examination of the three structural elements of health care, the most striking differences were evident in the comparison between eastern and western Europe. GPs throughout Europe had a comparatively small role in organized health education.

CONCLUSION: The position of GPs is weak in eastern Europe and some Mediterranean countries, where service profiles have a limited range. General practice was more comprehensive where the doctors had a gatekeeping role.

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