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 ≥ 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.