An introduction to the general practice consultation
The general practice consultation is an encounter between the doctor and a patient relating to either a new problem or the follow-up of an existing one; it can take place either in the general practitioner (GP) surgery or at the patient’s home. In a ‘typical’ week, a GP will see a range of presenting conditions including, for example, those with a potential cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal or psychological origin. General practice sits firmly within a community of people, and thus frequently cares not only for the individual, but also for whole families and indeed, over time, multiple generations within these families. The problems presenting to general practice are similar to those of hospital medicine, with some important distinctions. Many patients presenting to general practice have mild, short-lived and self-limiting illnesses, and/or simply need reassurance. The fundamental importance of adopting a patient-centred approach in general practice has already been identified.