GP access has become a focus of governmental response to rising A&E attendance. Outlining a ‘new deal for general practice’ on 19th June Jeremy Hunt cited safeguarding hospital capacity as a key driver for seven-day primary care access.
The logic is that a significant proportion of A&E visits are for problems that could be managed in primary care and lack of available GP appointments drives people to A&E.
Can greater GP access reduce A&E use? The answer seems to be probably, some of the time and in certain contexts. A recent systematic review by our team found an association between better primary care access and reduced A&E attendance in US and Canadian studies, but no clear association in European studies.