In disadvantaged areas, proximity to a GP surgery reduces attendance at accident and emergency (A&E) services, according to new research published in BMJ Open.
In the first study of its kind in the United Kingdom, researchers led by the University of Liverpool, surveyed 3510 residents from 20 disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the North West Coast area of England. Participants were asked to provide general background details and information about their physical health, mental health, lifestyle, social issues, housing and environment, work and finances and health care service usage.
Of the sample, 31.6% reported having attended A&E in the previous 12 months, ranging from 1 to 95 visits. Being unemployment and living in poor quality housing increased the likelihood of attending A&E.
Service access was also found to be predictive of A&E attendance. There were 18 fewer A&E attendances per 100 population for each kilometre closer to a GP practice that the individual lives, and there were 3 fewer attendances per 100 population for each kilometre further away from an A&E department that the person lived.
The authors say the findings highlight, “the need for multipronged approaches to reduce A&E attendances that address socioeconomic inequalities, such as employment and housing quality, but also structural issues such as access to primary care”.
They recommend that policies aimed at reducing A&E attendance should include strategic placement of primary care services and better transport links to these services.
“Strategies to reduce strain on health services need to address the social and economic factors that underpin demand for health care and enhance access to primary care,” they say.