An analysis of childhood consultations in general practice: a multi-practice study

  • Jane O’DohertyEmail author
  • Ailish Hannigan
  • Louise Hickey
  • Walter Cullen
  • Clodagh O’Gorman
  • Ray O’Connor
  • Liam Glynn
  • Eimear O’Neill
  • Andrew O’Regan
Original Article



The majority of illnesses in children are managed by general practitioners (GPs) and there is a need for up to date data on consultations with children in order to improve healthcare service planning and allocation of resources.


To investigate the presenting symptoms, diagnoses and actions taken by the GP at consultations with children in general practice.


Senior medical students on general practice placement and their GP supervisors used practice management software to collect data on 100 randomly selected patients aged between 12 months and 14 years of age in each practice. Presenting symptoms, diagnoses and actions taken by the GP for the most recent attendance in the previous 12 months were summarised by age group (1–4 years; 5–10 years; 11–14 years).


Data were collected from 5959 patients at 64 practices. During the 12-month study, 3241 (54%) of children had a consultation with their GP. The most common presenting symptoms were respiratory (1–4 yrs, 28%; 5–10 yrs, 39%; 11–14 yrs, 32%) and skin complaint (1–4 yrs, 13%; 5–10 yrs, 16%; 11–14 yrs, 21%). The most common actions for all age groups were prescribing (1–4 yrs, 55%; 5–10 yrs, 58%; 11–14 yrs, 56%) and providing reassurance (1–4 yrs, 53%; 5–10 yrs, 51%; 11–14 yrs, 48%). Rates of referral and requiring further investigation increased with age.


This study provides a comprehensive snapshot of what children commonly present with in general practice, common diagnoses and the actions taken by GPs. The findings will help GPs to organise their practice systems and will inform healthcare service planners.


Attendances Children Consultations General practitioners Outcomes 



general practitioners





The authors wish to acknowledge the GPs and students who facilitated data collection for this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was granted by the HSE Mid-West Research Ethics Committee.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane O’Doherty
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ailish Hannigan
    • 1
  • Louise Hickey
    • 2
  • Walter Cullen
    • 3
  • Clodagh O’Gorman
    • 1
  • Ray O’Connor
    • 1
  • Liam Glynn
    • 1
  • Eimear O’Neill
    • 1
  • Andrew O’Regan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical SchoolLimerickIreland
  2. 2.Trinity CollegeDublinIreland
  3. 3.Urban General Practice, School of MedicineUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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