Exploring the relationship between general practice characteristics, and attendance at walk-in centres, minor injuries units and EDs in England 2012/2013: a cross-sectional study

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Abstract

Background

For several years, EDs in the UK NHS have faced considerable increases in attendance rates. Walk-in centres (WiCs) and minor injuries units (MIUs) have been suggested as solutions. We aimed to investigate the associations between practice and practice population characteristics with ED attendance rates or combined ED/WiC/MIU attendance, and the associations between WiC/MIU and ED attendance.

Methods

We used general practice-level data including 7462 English practices in 2012/2013 and present adjusted regression coefficients from linear multivariable analysis for relationships between patients' emergency attendance rates and practice characteristics.

Results

Every percentage-point increase in patients reporting inability to make an appointment was associated with an increase in emergency attendance by 0.36 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.66) per 1000 population. Percentage-point increases in patients unable to speak to a general practitioner (GP)/nurse within two workdays and patients able to speak often to their preferred GP were associated with increased emergency attendance/1000 population by 0.23 (95% CI 0.05 to 0.42) and 0.10 (95% CI 0.00 to 0.19), respectively. Practices in areas encompassing several towns (conurbations) had higher attendance than rural practices, as did practices with more non-UK-qualified GPs. Practice population characteristics associated with increased emergency attendance included higher unemployment rates, higher percentage of UK whites and lower male life expectancy, which showed stronger associations than practice characteristics. Furthermore, higher MIU or WiC attendance rates were associated with lower ED attendance rates.

Conclusions

Improving availability of appointments and opportunities to speak a GP/nurse at short notice might reduce ED attendance. Establishing MIUs and WiCs might also reduce ED attendance.

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