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Seeing different GPs makes patients ‘twice as likely’ to be admitted to hospital

Patients who see different GPs from visit to visit are more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital, a study has found.

The study published in Annals of Family Medicine, found that older patients who do not see the same GP are at higher risk of emergency hospital admissions than those who saw the same or a small number of GPs.

Researchers looked at data from 10,000 records of patients aged 65 years and older, 297 practices in England between April 2010 and March 2014.

This data was cross-referenced with hospital records to measure continuity of care and the risk of emergency admissions.

The researchers suggested that plans to enhance continuity of care could reduce hospital admissions as trust in England face ‘sustained pressure with increasing emergency attendances’. 

This comes as Pulse reported that some trusts are facing ‘unprecedented demand’ this winter with three declaring black alerts early in the season due to high demand at A&E.

Dr Peter Tammes, senior research associate at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care and lead author of the study, said: ‘Discontinuity of care reduces the opportunity for building trust and mutual responsibility between doctors and patients, which might underlie the increased risk of emergency hospital admission.’ 

He added however that more research is needed to more clearly understand the link between continuity of care and hospital admissions.

He said: ‘It would also be helpful to evaluate new schemes to improve continuity of care, such as the introduction in 2014 of a named GP for elderly patients – especially as the merging of practices into ‘super-practices’ is expected to lead to an overall decrease in continuity of care.’

The ‘named GP’ policy was introduced as part of changes to the GP contract in April 2014, requiring GPs to assign patients aged 75 and over a specific GP to be responsible for their care.

However, a study into 200 practices in England last year found that assigning elderly patients a ‘named GP’ did not have any effect on their continuity of care, with GPs at the time declaring it an ‘evidence based policy failure’.

Meanwhile, recent research has also found that patients are less satisfied in large practices where there is less continuity of care, adding that patients ‘highly valued their continuous, ongoing relationship with their own practice, their own doctor and the wider practice team’.