Objective: To determine the type and frequency of emergencies in general practice, and the extent to which general practices are equipped to appropriately respond to emergencies.
Design: Random-sample, cross-sectional questionnaire survey of general practitioners, October 1999 - March 2000.
Setting: General practices in south-east Queensland.
Participants: 512 of 900 eligible GPs in current clinical practice.
Main outcome measures: The type and frequency of medical emergencies presenting to GPs, and descriptive details of emergency drugs and equipment available in their practices.
Results: 512 GPs (response rate, 57%) reported managing a cumulative total of 5640 emergencies over the preceding 12 months. Non-metropolitan GPs saw about 30% more emergencies than their metropolitan counterparts (median, 9 and 7, respectively; P=0.02). The most common emergencies (seen by more than 30% of all GPs) were acute asthma, psychiatric emergencies, convulsions, hypoglycaemia, anaphylaxis, impaired consciousness, shock, poisoning and overdose. Most GPs (77%) stocked 15 or more of the 16 emergency doctor's bag drugs, but a smaller proportion (67%) had all of the basic emergency equipment items considered essential.
Conclusions: A substantial number of patients with potentially life-threatening emergencies present to GPs. Doctor's bag emergency drugs are available in most general practices, but availability of basic emergency equipment is suboptimal.