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BACKGROUND: Skin complaints are common in primary care, and poor outcomes in long-term conditions are often due to low adherence to treatment. Shared decision making and self-management support may help, yet there is little understanding of patient involvement or the support provided by GPs. AIM: To describe the content of primary care consultations for skin problems, including shared decision making practice, delivery of self-management advice, and follow-up. DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional study of video-recorded UK adult GP consultations and linked data. METHOD: A coding tool was developed and applied to all consultations with skin problems. Shared decision making was assessed using the observer OPTION5 scale. RESULTS: A total of 45/318 consultations (14.2%) related to one or more skin problems, which were discussed alongside other problems in 71.1% (32/45) of consultations. Of the 100 different problems discussed in these consultations, 51 were dermatological. The mean amount of time spent on skin problems in the consultations was 4 minutes 16 seconds. Medication was recommended for 66.7% (34/51) of skin problems, with low shared decision making (mean OPTION5 score = 10.7). Self-management advice (verbal only) was given for 47.1% (24/51) of skin problems. Most skin problems (84.3%; 43/51) were not referred to secondary care; 32.6% (14/43) of the skin problems not referred were seen again in primary care within 12 weeks, of which 35.7% (5/14) follow-up appointments were not planned. CONCLUSION: In this study, skin problems were usually presented alongside other complaints and resulted in a medication recommendation. Shared decision making was uncommon and self-management advice not consistently given, with re-attendance for the same problem common. GPs' training should reflect how frequently skin problems are seen and seek to improve patient involvement in decision making and support self-management.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date



decision making, shared, dermatology, primary care, self-management