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N Z Med J. 1995 Sep 8;108(1007):361-3.

Geographical variations in the organisation of general practice.

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  • 1Department of General Practice, School of Medicine, University of Auckland.



To describe organisational characteristics of New Zealand general practice and to investigate inter-regional variations in these characteristics.


Data were collected by standardised questionnaires from general practitioners in Auckland, Waikato and Taranaki. The Waikato data were collected in July-August 1991 by postal survey, the Taranaki data were collected May-June 1992 by postal survey and the Auckland data were collected December 1990 to January 1991 by face-to-face interview.


The response rates were Auckland 98% (167/171), Waikato 84% (185/220) and Taranaki 79% (79/100). There were significantly more overseas trained graduates in rural areas than in urban areas. Average practice size was 2.3 full time equivalent doctors, with each 100 doctors employing 71 nurses and 77 receptionists. The number of patients seen per week ranged from 109-141. Almost all (95%) general practitioners operated appointment systems. One in five general practitioners had patients in private hospitals, and more than half (58%) had patients in rest homes. At the time of interview, 29% of Auckland general practitioners used computers in their practices compared with over 50% in Waikato and Taranaki (p < 0.05). A smaller proportion of Auckland general practitioners had access to age/sex registers and fewer Auckland general practitioners had a recall system. Of Auckland general practitioners with recall systems, a greater proportion used them for mammograms, blood pressure and lipid measurements compared with elsewhere.


There are some significant regional variations in the functional characteristics of general practice in New Zealand which should be taken into account when planning primary care services in different regions. Should budget holding and managed care be introduced, computerised practices will be required. This will have significant resource implications.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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