General practitioners working in or alongside the emergency department: the GPED mixed-methods study

Jonathan Benger, Heather Brant, Arabella Louise Scantlebury, Helen Anderson, Helen Baxter, Karen Elizabeth Bloor, Janet Brandling, Sean Cowlishaw, Timothy Doran, James Michael Gaughan, Andrew Gibson, Nils Gutacker, Heather Leggett, Dan Liu, Katherine Morton, Sarah Purdy, Chris Salisbury, Anu Vaittinen, Sarah Voss, Rose M WatsonJoy Ann Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Emergency care is facing a steadily rising demand. In response, hospitals have implemented new models of care that locate general practitioners in or alongside the emergency department. Objectives: We aimed to explore the effects of general practitioners working in or alongside the emergency department on patient care, the primary care and acute hospital team, and the wider system, as well as to determine the differential effects of different service models. Design: This was a mixed-methods study in three work packages. Work package A classified current models of general practitioners working in or alongside the emergency department in England. We interviewed national and local leaders, staff and patients to identify the hypotheses underpinning these services. Work package B used a retrospective analysis of routinely available data. Outcome measures included waiting times, admission rates, reattendances, mortality and the number of patient attendances. We explored potential cost savings. Work package C was a detailed mixed-methods case study in 10 sites. We collected and synthesised qualitative and quantitative data from non-participant observations, interviews and a workforce survey. Patients and the public were involved throughout the development, delivery and dissemination of the study. Results: High-level goals were shared between national policy-makers and local leads; however, there was disagreement about the anticipated effects. We identified eight domains of influence: performance against the 4-hour target, use of investigations, hospital admissions, patient outcome and experience, service access, workforce recruitment and retention, workforce behaviour and experience, and resource use. General practitioners working in or alongside the emergency department were associated with a very slight reduction in the rate of reattendance within 7 days; however, the clinical significance of this was judged to be negligible. For all other indicators, there was no effect on performance or outcomes. However, there was a substantial degree of heterogeneity in these findings. This is explained by the considerable variation observed in our case study sites, and the sensitivity of service implementation to local factors. The effects on the workforce were complex; they were often positive for emergency department doctors and general practitioners, but less so for nursing staff. The patient-streaming process generated stress and conflict for emergency department nurses and general practitioners. Patients and carers were understanding of general practitioners working in or alongside the emergency department. We found no evidence that staff concerns regarding the potential to create additional demand were justified. Any possible cost savings associated with reduced reattendances were heavily outweighed by the cost of the service. Limitations: The reliability of our data sources varied and we were unable to complete our quantitative analysis entirely as planned. Participation in interviews and at case study sites was voluntary. Conclusions: Service implementation was highly subject to local context and micro-level influences. Key success factors were interprofessional working, staffing and training, streaming, and infrastructure and support.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberHEPB9808
Number of pages186
JournalHealth and Social Care Delivery Research
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work package A mapped, described and classified current models of GPED in all EDs in England. We also interviewed key national and local system leaders, staff and patients to identify the underpinning domains of influence and hypotheses, and the potential mechanisms for benefit and disbenefit. We also interviewed local service leaders who were awarded capital funding from the UK government’s initiative to support national implementation, before and 12 months after their capital funding award.

Funding Information:
Funding: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health and Social Care Delivery Research programme and will be published in full in Health and Social Care Delivery Research; Vol. 10, No. 30. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Benger et al.

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