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Fewer A&E visits where access to GPs is better

Patients with more timely access to general practitioner (GP) appointments make fewer visits to accident and emergency departments, suggests a study published in the journal PLoS One. The findings of the article reinforce the need for more investment in GP services. People living in more affluent areas areas also had lower rates of use of A & E. Improving access to GPs by employing more GPs in deprived, urban areas and giving primary care teams more resources could help improve access to health services, improve quality of care and reduce pressures on other parts of the NHS.

Lead author Thomas Cowling, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “This is the first national evidence of an association between access to GP appointments and rates of A&E attendances in England. Policy makers should consider this relationship when designing plans to reduce the use of A&E departments. A new era of service commissioning, led by GPs, has just started in the NHS. It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this has on access to GP appointments and, in turn, on A&E visits.Increasing demand for urgent and emergency care is a major issue in many developed countries, in addition to England. In the United States, the situation is more complex as some patients experience financial barriers to accessing primary care. This is increasingly also the case in some European countries as a result of economic austerity.”

The article was featured by a number of organisations, including the BMJRCGP, Sky News, Yahoo, and the Conversation, as well as featuring on social networks such as Twitter.

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