Unique features of general practice

Anderson, Bridges-Webb and Chancellor 4 emphasise that 'the unique and important work of the general practitioner is to provide availability and continuity of care, competence in the realm of diagnosis, care of acute and chronic illness, prompt treatment of emergencies and a preventive approach to health care'.

The features that make general practice different from hospital- or specialist-based medical practices include:

• first contact

• diagnostic methodology

• early diagnosis of life-threatening and serious disease

• continuity and availability of care

• personalised care

• care of acute and chronic illness

• domiciliary care

• emergency care (prompt treatment at home or in the community)

• preventive care

• scope for health promotion

• holistic approach

• health care co-ordination

Apart from these processes the general practitioner has to manage very common problems including a whole variety of problems not normally taught in medical school or in postgraduate programs. Many of these problems are unusual yet common and can be regarded as the 'nitty gritty' or 'bread and butter' problems of primary health care.

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