Inflammatory bowel diseases have significant long-term morbidity and healthcare resource consequences. Studies based on secondary care records may have underestimated the contribution of general practitioners (GPs) to its management.
To describe the epidemiology and management of inflammatory bowel disease using GP records as the primary data source.
A systematic search of GP clinical records in northern England, identifying cases of inflammatory bowel disease, patient consultation behaviour, prescribing patterns, and extent of specialist care.
In a population of 135 723, the incidence of ulcerative colitis was 13.9/100 000 per year (CI: 7.5–20.3) and for Crohn’s disease 8.3/100 000 per year (CI: 3.4–13.2). The age–sex adjusted point prevalence for ulcerative colitis on 1st January 1995 was 243.4/100 000 (CI: 217.4–269.4) and for Crohn’s disease 144.8/100 000 (CI: 124.8–168.8). The mean number of consultations (s.d.) with specialists and GPs were similar, both in the first 12 months after referral (specialists 3.94 ± 3.15, GPs 3.34 ± 3.55) and in the most recent 12 months (1.02 ± 2.02, 1.04 ± 2.04). Only 29.9% of all patients were definitely under specialist care.
Prevalence rates, but not incidence rates, for inflammatory bowel disease are substantially higher than previously described in UK populations. General practitioners make a significant contribution to meeting the healthcare needs of these patients.