Introduction It is believed that some patients are more likely to use out-of-hours primary care services because of difficulties in accessing in-hours care, but substantial evidence about any such association is missing.
Methods We analysed data from 567 049 respondents to the 2011/2012 English General Practice Patient Survey who reported at least one in-hours primary care consultation in the preceding 6 months. Of those respondents, 7% also reported using out-of-hours primary care. We used logistic regression to explore associations between use of out-of-hours primary care and five measures of in-hours access (ease of getting through on the telephone, ability to see a preferred general practitioner, ability to get an urgent or routine appointment and convenience of opening hours). We illustrated the potential for reduction in use of out-of-hours primary care in a model where access to in-hours care was made optimal.
Results Worse in-hours access was associated with greater use of out-of-hours primary care for each access factor. In multivariable analysis adjusting for access and patient characteristic variables, worse access was independently associated with increased out-of-hours use for all measures except ease of telephone access. Assuming these associations were causal, we estimated that an 11% relative reduction in use of out-of-hours primary care services in England could be achievable if access to in-hours care were optimal.
Conclusions This secondary quantitative analysis provides evidence for an association between difficulty in accessing in-hours care and use of out-of-hours primary care services. The findings can motivate the development of interventions to improve in-hour access.
- Primary Care
- Prehospital Care, Doctors in PHC
- Prehospital Care
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