Are more GPs associated with a reduction in emergency hospital admissions? A quantitative study on GP referral in England.
Nicodemo C., McCormick B., Wittenberg R., Hobbs FR.
BACKGROUND: Recent studies have found an association between access to primary care and accident and emergency attendances, with better access associated with fewer attendances. Analyses of an association with emergency admissions, however, have produced conflicting findings. AIM: This study investigated whether emergency admission rates in an area are associated with 1) the number of GPs, and 2) mean size of GP practice. DESIGN AND SETTING: Analysis was conducted utilising Hospital Episode Statistics, the numbers of GPs and GP practices, Office for National Statistics population data, Quality and Outcomes Framework prevalence data, and Index of Multiple Deprivation data, from 2004/2005 to 2011/2012, for all practices in England. METHOD: Regression analysis of panel data with fixed effects to address 1) a potential two-way relationship between the numbers of GPs and emergency admissions, and 2) unobservable characteristics of GP practices. RESULTS: There is not a statistically significant relationship between the number of GPs in a primary care trust area and the number of emergency admissions, when analysing all areas. In deprived areas, however, a higher number of GPs is associated with lower emergency admissions. There is also a lower emergency admission rate in areas in which practices are on average larger, holding GP supply constant. CONCLUSION: An increase in GPs was found to reduce emergency admissions in deprived areas, but not elsewhere. Areas in which GPs are concentrated into larger practices showed reduced levels of emergency admissions, all else being equal.