What is a General Practitioner (GP)?
The GP plays a central role in the delivery of health care to the Australian community.
In Australia, the GP:
- is usually the first point of contact in matters of personal health
- refers patients to other health professionals and co-ordinates their care
- adopts a holistic approach in the context of patients’ work, family and community
- cares for patients of all ages and sexes, children and adults across all conditions and throughout their lifetime
- provides advice and education on health
- performs legal processes such as driving assessment or provides reports in relation to social services, insurance or work accidents
What services do GPs offer?
A GP is a doctor who is also qualified in general medical practice. They are often the first point of contact for someone, of any age, who feels sick or has a health concern and treat a wide range of health issues. A GP may also undertake further education in specific areas such as musculoskeletal medicine (which includes rheumatology).
- Diagnosis and treatment
- Medical and health check-ups
- Information and advice
- Health and nutrition advice
- Coordinating healthcare
- Prescription of medications
- Ordering of screening and medical tests
- Early intervention for those at risk
- Management of acute and chronic conditions
- Referrals to specialist health professionals
- Providing information/assessments on issues relating to workers’ compensation, NDIS, Centrelink, DVA and insurance
When should I see a GP?
Any health issue can be discussed with a GP. The GP will help mange certain issues independently and direct you towards additional health workers and agencies as needed. Every Australian should have a GP even if they do not need to see them very often and it is best to see a single GP or GP practice whenever possible to improve the continuity of your care.
If you have a rheumatological condition, or think you may have one, you should be in contact with your GP!
How can I find a GP who has a specialist interest in rheumatology conditions?
GPs with an officially recognised special interest in rheumatology are rare. There are now a few such roles in hospital settings where they work alongside rheumatologists. There is no recognised training pathway for this work though such GPs will gain additional rheumatology skill under specialist supervision.
Due to the varied nature of GP training and practice, some GPs have particular experience or interest in musculoskeletal medicine and, occasionally, rheumatology. A General Practice’s website may advertise such interests and/or experience and may be the best place to find out about these. However, additional interest/experience in a field does not necessarily mean a GP is able to practice at a higher level in that area of medicine. It would also be important to look at what further specific qualifications a particular GP has obtained.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
Better Health Channel