Medical emergencies in general practice in south-east Queensland: prevalence and practice preparedness

Med J Aust. 2001 Jul 16;175(2):99-103. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2001.tb143540.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Emergencies / epidemiology*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Queensland / epidemiology