GP-led walk-in centre in the UK: another way for urgent healthcare provision
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KeywordsEmergency Department Healthcare Service Research Participant Primary Care Setting Ethical Review Committee
It is evident that accident and emergency departments are overloaded with patients, which results in delays in healthcare provision . A large proportion of patients consist of patients with minor illness that can be seen by a healthcare provider in a primary care setting. The aim of the study was to determine the characteristics of patients using GP walk-in services, patients' satisfaction and the effect on emergency department (ED) services.
The survey was conducted in Sheffield and Rotherham walk-in centres over 3 weeks during September and October 2011. A self-reported, validated questionnaire was used to conduct survey on the patients presenting at these centres. We estimated that a sample size of around 400 patients from each centre was required to achieve statistically robust results. A post-visit, short questionnaire was also sent to those who agreed for the second questionnaire and provided contact details. ED data were also obtained from April 2008 to March 2010, 1 year before and 1 year after the opening of the GP walk-in centre. Data were entered and analysed in PASW Statistics 18. Ethical approval of the study was obtained from the NHS ethical review committee.
A total of 1,030 patients participated in the survey (Rotherham 501; Sheffield 529). The mean age of the participants was 32.1 years at Sheffield and 30.88 years at Rotherham. A higher proportion of users were female, around 59% at both centres. Most of the patients rated high for convenience of the centre opening hours and location (above 85%, apart from the location of Sheffield centre, which was rated high by around 72% of the research participants). Overall 93% patients were satisfied with the service at Rotherham centre and around 86% at the Sheffield centre. Based on the estimation of the monthly counts of patients attending ED and the GP walk-in centre, around 14% monthly reduction in minor attendances at ED was expected. However, ED routine data did not show any significant reduction in minor attendances as a result of the opening of the GP walk-in centre.
These walk-in centres have been shown to increase accessibility to healthcare service through longer opening hours and walk-in facility. Although the effect on the reduction of patients' load at the ED is not visible as these centres cover a fraction of the population, the centre has a potential to divert patients from the ED.
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