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Medical Practice

Medical and Social Screening of Patients aged 70 to 72 by an Urban General Practice Health Team

Br Med J 1974; 2 doi: (Published 13 April 1974) Cite this as: Br Med J 1974;2:108
  1. G. Currie,
  2. R. M. Macneill,
  3. J. G. Walker,
  4. Elva Barnie,
  5. Elizabeth W. Mudie


    A medico-social survey of 259 elderly patients aged 70-72 was carried out by three doctors, a health visitor and a nurse in an urban general practice. Seven hundred and ninety diseases or disabilities were identified—an average of 3·2 per patient—of which 20·5% were unknown to the doctors. Using a simple check list for symptom inquiry, the health visitor or nurse missed very little of the physical or psychological disease. In some respects their symptom inquiry was more revealing than that of the doctors but they had difficulty in eliciting evidence of malnutrition, masked depression, and incipient dementia. Initial health screening of the elderly for unreported disease in general practice can easily be done by a health visitor with training in geriatric problems and the recognition of psychiatric illness.

    Initial health screening can also be done by a nurse with community-nursing experience but she will require additional training in the techniques of social assessment. The doctor must examine those patients found to be suffering from alerting symptoms. A general practice of three or four doctors requires one health visitor for routine work and one additional health visitor or nurse for screening of the elderly. Unreported disease in the elderly indicates failure to make contact and failure to ask the right questions. Unknown disease may be due to inadequate records.

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