Doctor 2Seeing the same GP more often is linked to fewer avoidable hospital admissions for older patients, new research by the Health Foundation has revealed.

Researchers analysed data from more than 230,000 anonymised patient records for older people aged 62-82 years. They found there were fewer hospital admissions for certain conditions when patients saw the same GP more consistently (that is, had ‘greater continuity of care’).  

The research showed that if patients saw their most frequently seen GP two more times out of every 10, this was associated with 6% fewer admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions. Ambulatory care sensitive conditions are those considered manageable in primary care, such as asthma, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia.

Emergency admissions from ambulatory care sensitive conditions cost the NHS in England £1.42 billion in 2009/10 and accounted for about 15% of all hospital admissions. The Health Foundation study looked at avoidable admissions – emergency and elective.

Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: “This research is important because it shows that patients who more regularly see the same GP experience fewer admissions to hospital. Improving continuity of care is not just what patients and GPs want, it could also help to reduce pressure on hospitals.

“An ongoing relationship between patients and GPs is important. However, general practices are under considerable pressure, and people are finding it increasingly difficult to see their preferred GP.

“There are a number of national policy initiatives focused on improving primary care – any future initiatives should not lose sight of the crucial role of continuity of care.”

The report sets out a series of steps that could be taken by policymakers, commissioners and GPs to help improve continuity of care. This includes GPs setting prompts on their booking systems and encouraging receptionists to book patients to their usual GP. The report urges commissioners and policymakers to give greater priority to good continuity of care.

The Health Foundation research was published in The BMJ