Background: Cutaneous disease is thought to account for 10-15% of patient consultations with general practitioners, but relatively little is known about the demography of dermatological conditions in primary care.
Aim: To assess the proportion and diagnostic profile of dermatological conditions seen in primary care in the southeast of Scotland, and to draw comparisons with secondary dermatological care.
Methods: General practitioners in 13 general practices were asked to note all skin-related consultations during a 2-week period. The case notes of these patients were reviewed, and diagnosis and treatment was recorded. Patients who had consulted for the same skin disorder on >or= 3 occasions during the previous year were invited for assessment by a consultant dermatologist. Where possible, the case notes from 10% of all consultations during the 2-week study period were examined to assess accuracy of recording.
Results: The percentage of consultations relating to cutaneous disorders varied between practices, ranging from 3% to 18.8%, with a mean of 8.4%. Eczema accounted for 22.5%, infections 20.3% and benign tumours for 11.4% of consultations with a dermatological basis. In contrast, in secondary care, benign tumours accounted for 23.8%, malignant tumours for 16.4% and eczema for 16.3% of dermatological consultations.
Conclusions: Dermatological disorders make up a significant proportion of general practitioners' workload. The diagnostic profile of primary-care dermatology differs markedly from that of hospital practice. General practitioners may benefit from training specifically tailored to the common primary-care dermatological conditions.