Suitability of emergency department attenders to be assessed in primary care: survey of general practitioner agreement in a random sample of triage records analysed in a service evaluation project.
Thompson MIW., Lasserson D., McCann L., Thompson M., Heneghan C.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the proportion of emergency department (ED) attendances that would be suitable for primary care and the inter-rater reliability of general practitioner (GP) assessment of primary care suitability. DESIGN OF STUDY: Survey of GPs' agreement of suitability for primary care on a random anonymised sample of all ED patients attending over a 1-month period. SETTING: ED of a UK Hospital serving a population of 600 000. METHOD: Four GPs independently used data extracted from clinical notes to rate the appropriateness for management in primary care as well as need for investigations, specialist review or admission. Agreement was assessed using Cohen's κ. RESULTS: The mean percentage of patients that GPs considered suitable for primary care management was 43% (range 38-47%). The κ for agreement was 0.54 (95% CI 0.44 to 0.64) and 0.47(95% CI 0.38 to 0.59). In patients deemed not suitable for primary care, GPs were more likely to determine the need for specialist review (relative risks (RR)=3.5, 95% CI 3.0 to 4.2, p<0.001) and admission (RR=3.9, 95% CI 3.2 to 4.7, p<0.001). In patients assessed as suitable for primary care, GPs would initiate investigations in 51% of cases. Consensus over primary care appropriateness was higher for paediatric than for adult attenders. CONCLUSIONS: A significant number of patients attending ED could be managed by GPs, including those requiring investigations at triage. A stronger agreement among GPs over place of care may be seen for paediatric than for adult attenders. More effective signposting of patients presenting with acute or urgent problems and supporting a greater role for primary care in relieving the severe workflow pressures in ED in the UK are potential solutions.