In early 2010, the Addisons Disease Self-Help Group sent an information pack to 10 500 GP practices across the UK, outlining the GPs role in diagnosis and care of the Addisons patient. We asked the practice head to return a reply-paid questionnaire, detailing the number of steroid-dependent patients in the practice, their repeat prescription length, if they had an in-date supply of injectable hydrocortisone, and any comments on the challenges they faced in providing care for their steroid-dependent patients.
Predictably, only a tiny proportion of GP practices sent a reply (n=22), so that their responses do not offer statistical validity. Nevertheless, this small sample offers some qualitative insights.
The 22 GP practices that replied contained an average of 4.4 GPs, 6700 patients and 1.7 Addisons patients. This is only a slightly higher proportion than epidemiological research would have suggested.
Thirty-three percent of practices with steroid-dependent patients (n=18) reported that they were on 28-day repeat prescriptions. Only 3 of these practices were able to confirm that their patients had an in-date supply of injectable hydrocortisone.
Several GPs stated that prevention and management of adrenal crisis was their biggest challenge, as neither practice staff nor their adrenal patients had a good understanding of what this entailed. Others said they had insufficient experience to offer guidance to the patient on what to do if they became unwell and relied on patients to self-care. One respondent commented that he had yet to see an adrenal patient after 30 years as a GP, and would rely on secondary care to provide the follow-up and patient education required.
This small survey reinforces the importance of the endocrinologists role in providing patient education for the prevention and management of adrenal crisis.