General practitioners providing non-urgent care in emergency department: A natural experiment

Olalekan A. Uthman, Clare Walker, Sudakshina Lahiri, David Jenkinson, Victor Adekanmbi, Wendy Robertson, Aileen Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective To examine whether care provided by general practitioners (GPs) to non-urgent patients in the emergency department differs significantly from care provided by usual accident and emergency (A&E) staff in terms of process outcomes and A&E clinical quality indicators. Design Propensity score matched cohort study. Setting GPs in A&E colocated within the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust between May 2015 and March 2016. Participants Non-urgent attendances visits to the A&E department. Main outcomes Process outcomes (any investigation, any blood investigation, any radiological investigation, any intervention, admission and referrals) and A&E clinical indicators (spent 4 hours plus, left without being seen and 7-day reattendance). Results A total of 5426 patients seen by GPs in A&E were matched with 10 852 patients seen by emergency physicians (ratio 1:2). Compared with standard care in A&E, GPs in A&E significantly: Admitted fewer patients (risk ratio (RR) 0.28, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.31), referred fewer patients to other specialists (RR 0.31, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.40), ordered fewer radiological investigations (RR 0.38, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.42), ordered fewer blood tests (0.57, 95% CI 0.52 to 0.61) and ordered fewer investigations (0.93, 95% CI 0.90 to 0.96). However, they intervened more, offered more primary care follow-up (RR 1.78, 95% CI 1.67 to 1.89) and referred more patients to outpatient and other A&E clinics (RR 2.29, 95% CI 2.10 to 2.49). Patients seen by GPs in A&E were on average less likely to spend 4 hours plus in A&E (RR 0.37, 95% CI 0.30 to 0.45) compared with standard care in A&E. There was no difference in reattendance after 7 days (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.09). Conclusion GPs in A&E tended to manage self-reporting minor cases with fewer resources than standard care in A&E, without increasing reattendance rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere019736
JournalBMJ open
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • four hour delay
  • general practitioners
  • natural experiment
  • propensity score

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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