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Patterns of healthcare use among adolescents attending an urban general practitioner-led urgent care centre

Adolescence is a time of increasing health and peak fitness, as well as increasing health risks. In the UK, primary care is free at the point of access, yet, adolescents aged 10-19 years are the lowest users of primary care services, and disproportionately high users of emergency services. The effect of new general practitioner (GP)-led urgent care centres in meeting the needs of adolescents are unknown. In a paper published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, Shamini Gnani and colleagues examined the demographics and attendance pattern among adolescents at two new co-located GP-led urgent care centres at Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals, London. They also compared attendance rates with those observed in routine general practice and emergency departments.

They reported that adolescents formed 6.5% of total urgent care attendances. 13.2% were recorded as not being registered with a GP. Commonest reasons for attendance were musculoskeletal conditions and injuries (30.2%), respiratory tract infections (12.5%) and limb fractures (5.1%). Adolescents aged 15-19 years were more likely to attend the centres (30.6 vs 23.4, per 100) than routine general practice. The opposite was true for adolescents aged 10-14 years. Gnani and colleagues concluded that adolescents aged 15-19 years are more likely to attend urgent care centres than general practice. The majority attended for conditions commonly seen in primary care including musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, and respiratory tract infections. Primary care services may need to be more responsive to needs of the older adolescent age, if their use of urgent care centres is to be reduced.

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