Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Confidence of primary care physicians in their ability to carry out basic medical genetic tasks—a European survey in five countries—Part 1

  • Irmgard NippertEmail author
  • Hilary J. Harris
  • Claire Julian-Reynier
  • Ulf Kristoffersson
  • Leo P. ten Kate
  • Elizabeth Anionwu
  • Caroline Benjamin
  • Kirsty Challen
  • Jörg Schmidtke
  • R. Peter Nippert
  • Rodney Harris
Original Article


Western health care systems are facing today increasing movement of genetic knowledge from research labs into clinical practice. This paper reports the results of a survey that addressed the confidence of primary care physicians in their ability to carry out basic medical genetic tasks. The survey was conducted in five countries (France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and the UK). Stratified random samples were drawn from primary care physicians in the five countries representing a sampling frame of 139,579 physicians. Stepwise binary logistic regression procedures were performed to identify the predictor variables for self-reported confidence. Three thousand six hundred eighty-six physicians participated and filled out a self-administered questionnaire. The margin of error for accurate representation of each group of European general practitioners and specialists in the total sample is 2.9% for GP, 2.8% for obstetricians/gynaecologists (OB/GYN) and for paediatricians (PAED) 2.6% (95% confidence level). Confidence in their ability to carry out basic medical genetic tasks is low among participating primary care physicians: 44.2% are not confident, 36.5% somewhat confident, confident or very confident are 19.3%. In each country, those confident/very confident represent less than 33% of the participating physicians. Primary care physicians who report the lowest levels of confidence prove to be those least exposed to medical genetics information and training. Although there are significant differences in the way in which professional education is organised and practice is regulated across European countries, there is a need for a coordinated European effort to improve primary care physicians’ background in medical genetics.


Genetic education Genetic services Primary care 



For the patient organisations: The contributions and support of Alastair Kent and Ysbrand Poortman are greatly appreciated. We also appreciate the technical support of Jean-Marc Calefato, Gaelle Santin in France; the contribution and support of Prof. Dr. E. Harms (paediatrician), Prof. Dr. W. Holzgreve (obstetrician/gynaecologist) and Prof. Dr. K. Wahle (general practitioner) in Germany; the contribution and support of Prof. Dr. Martina Cornel (community genetics), Dr. Marieke Baars (clinical geneticist), Dr. Attie Go (gynaecologist), Frans Boonekamp (general practitioner) and Dr. Michiel Weijers (paediatrician) in The Netherlands and the research and administrative support of Prof. Tony Heagerty (Professor of Medicine) and technical support of Daniel Cottam and Christine Waterman in UK.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irmgard Nippert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hilary J. Harris
    • 2
  • Claire Julian-Reynier
    • 3
  • Ulf Kristoffersson
    • 4
  • Leo P. ten Kate
    • 5
  • Elizabeth Anionwu
    • 6
  • Caroline Benjamin
    • 7
  • Kirsty Challen
    • 2
  • Jörg Schmidtke
    • 8
  • R. Peter Nippert
    • 9
  • Rodney Harris
    • 2
  1. 1.Frauengesundheitsforschung/Institut für HumangenetikUniversitätsklinikum MünsterMünsterGermany
  2. 2.GenEd Coordinating CentreUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  3. 3.INSERM, UMR379Institut Paoli-CalmettesMarseilleFrance
  4. 4.Department of Clinical GeneticsUniversity HospitalLundSweden
  5. 5.Department of Clinical Genetics, EMGO InstituteVU University Medical CentreAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Faculty of Health and Human SciencesThames Valley UniversityLondonUK
  7. 7.Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation TrustLiverpoolUK
  8. 8.Institut für HumangenetikMedizinische Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany
  9. 9.Medizinische FakultätWestfälische Wilhelms-UniversitätMünsterGermany

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