Extended hours in primary care linked to reductions in minor A&E attendances

National Institute for Health Research Signal
Published: Associations between Extending Access to Primary Care and Emergency Department Visits: A Difference-In-Differences Analysis, Whittaker, W.,Anselmi, L.,Kristensen, S. R. PLoS One Volume 13 Issue 9 , 2016

Practices which offered additional appointments showed a reduction in the number of their patients attending emergency departments (also known as A&E) for minor conditions. There was no overall reduction in emergency visits. Costs were reduced for emergency departments but by less than the cost of the additional appointments. The study did not evaluate whether or not this is cost saving to the health service as a whole nor if health outcomes were improved.

Emergency departments are increasingly busy and patients are waiting longer to be treated. Commissioners and providers have been interested in interventions which may help to reduce these hospital pressures.

This NIHR-funded study funded 56 general practices in Manchester to offer extra appointments during evenings and weekends as part of a larger programme to improve primary care. There was a 26.4% relative reduction in “minor” A&E visits (10,933 fewer visits), compared to 469 practices which did not offer additional appointments.

Nationally, policy-makers aim to encourage patients with minor conditions to attend alternative services, including primary care. These findings suggest additional appointments may help reduce minor A&E visits but may be more costly overall.

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