Electrocardiogram (ECG) is the most common cardiac investigation provided in primary care and accepted as core medical practice, yet little research evidence exists. In order to gather information on ECG provision in primary care and provide a training and competence analysis, a postal survey of 395 general practices within the North of England Cardiovascular Network area was conducted.
A total of 119 practices responded (30.1%) of which 91 (76.5%) recorded ECGs in-house. An average of 34.7 ECGs per 1,000 patients were recorded within 12 months (1.4–114/1,000). Of practices recording ECGs, 86% also interpreted the results themselves. Of staff recording ECGs, 72% received training, which was carried out mostly in-house, and 52.9% of practitioners interpreting results had received some training. A low level of confidence to recognise 10 important ECG abnormalities was reported.
Our survey confirmed that the majority of GP practices record and interpret ECGs. Few received formalised training and assessment in recording and interpreting ECGs. This was reflected in a low level of confidence to recognise critical ECG abnormalities.