Recent data suggest that skin problems were the most common reason for patients visiting their GP in the UK. Healthcare professionals such as practice nurses and community pharmacists represent potential alternative sources of advice for patients with skin problems yet little is currently known about the diagnostic ability of these health professionals.
The aim of the present study was to compare the ability of all three groups of primary care health professionals to recognise and recommend treatments for a number of different skin conditions.
A website containing 10 dermatological vignettes was developed with each case containing a digital image of the skin problem and an associated case history. Participants were required to identify: 1) the condition; 2) the features supporting the diagnosis; 3) an appropriate first-line treatment option.
A total of 60 HCPs (20 pharmacists, GPs and practice nurses) took part in the study. The mean scores for pharmacists, nurses and GPs were 16.3, 15.6 and 19.9 respectively and this difference was significant, F (2, 55) = 5.83, p = 0.005. Post hoc Bonferroni testing revealed that the difference in mean scores between GPs and both nurses and pharmacists was significant (p < 0.05).
This study showed that the ability of GPs to recognise and manage skin conditions was superior to pharmacists and nurses and related to previous experience of the skin condition although further training in dermatology is likely to benefit all three groups.
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