Research Article

Provision of first contact care out of hours in four urban areas in England.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 14 December 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:1689
  1. B T Williams,
  2. R A Dixon,
  3. J P Nicholl


    In a typical two week period in 1984 in three urban areas with general practitioner deputising services roughly 40% of first contact patient encounters out of hours were with hospital accident and emergency departments, and only a quarter were with general practitioner deputising services, although 47%, 64%, and 97% of general practitioners in the areas had permission to use such services. Roughly a third only of the encounters were with the practices themselves, and even fewer occurred overnight (11 pm-7 am). In a fourth urban area where 68% of general practitioners formed an out of hours cooperative rota a third of the encounters were with the accident and emergency department and half (more overnight) were with the rota. The presence of a woman principal in a practice and large partnerships of four principals or more were associated with an increased proportion of encounters with the practice itself. Undue prominence may have been given to the role of deputising services in out of hours care. Paradoxically, the use of general practitioner cooperatives may result in even less personal care being given by the patient's own practice.