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The management of 12 330 cases of minor illness by 201 urban general practitioners has been studied. The results were analysed by the characteristics of the patients (age and social class) and by the characteristics of the doctors (for example, age of doctor, area of practice, mean time spent with patient).
The age of the patients had little effect on the management of minor illness. Prescribing rates were not found to vary with the social class of the patient but the level of home visiting was affected.
Doctors working in the most affluent wards were found to be lower prescribers than those in the less affluent wards and younger doctors tended to be low prescribers while older doctors tended to be high prescribers. There was a large proportion of non-vocationally trained doctors among the high prescribers. Doctors with short mean consultation times were found to be high prescribers and were more likely to label patients as having minor illness than doctors with longer mean consultation times. In addition, those doctors who used the minor illness codes more often were higher prescribers than those who used them less often.