Last updated: 19th December 2017
What is a GP?
A general practitioner (or GP) is a doctor that has a wide range of medical and surgical knowledge and cares for a diverse range of patients. This includes focusing on preventive medicine as well as caring for acute and chronic conditions as they arise.
A GP will refer their patients for specialist management when required and will communicate with the various specialists involved to ensure optimal patient care. It is not unusual for GPs to develop a specialty area of interest.
Your GP should be your first port of call if you have any non-emergency medical problem or question you need answering. Ideally a GP should coordinate the overall medical care of their patients.
What medical conditions does a GP treat?
GPs treat a wide range of mild, chronic and acute medical conditions, including:
- Exacerbation of chronic problems
- Chronic illness management, whether medical, surgical or psychiatric
- Thyroid disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart failure
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Emphysema (COPD)
- Mild kidney failure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Preventive Medicine
- Travel advice
Tests and procedures performed by a GP
A GP has access to numerous tests, often referring patients for formal investigation off site.
They will refer for blood tests, other laboratory investigations including analysis of urine, stool or other body fluids. They may refer for imaging by a radiologist or radiographer. X-Rays, CT scan and ultrasound are commonly requested.
Other tests and procedures performed by a GP include:
- Minor surgery
- Suturing wounds
- Excision of skin lesions
- Cryotherapy (freezing) of skin lesions
- Pap smears
- Breast examination
- Prostate examination
- Blood pressure
- Baby checks
- Developmental assessments
What to expect at your first appointment with a GP
On the first visit you may spend a considerable amount of time giving background information before getting onto the current problem, or 'presenting complaint'. This is so the GP can build a picture of your current state of health, your risk factors and possible future problems.
Taking a full history will make the assessment of your current complaint and any future problems more accurate. Treatment and advice will also be able to be tailored to your lifestyle and individual case.
The GP will ask about past medical, surgical and psychiatric history. They will ask about medications, immunisations, allergies, social history including employment, drug and alcohol use, smoking and sexual history. Family history is also important.
After gathering enough background information the GP will focus on the current problem and decide on the best line of further investigation and management.
Your GP will tailor your examination according to the current problem. Your temperature, pulse and blood pressure are commonly checked.
If the problem involves your ears or throat examination will focus there, alternatively if it involves your bladder, abdominal, genital and rectal examination will be important.
Training and qualifications
Specialty areas of interest
- Paediatrics (children)
- Women’s health
- Pregnancy and obstetrics
- Minor surgery
- Complementary medicine
- Men’s health
- Sports medicine
- Palliative care (care of the dying)
- Geriatrics (care of the elderly)
- Find a General Practitioner
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- Wikipedia – General Practitioner
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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.