Management of non-urgent paediatric emergency department attendances by GPs: A retrospective observational study

Simon Leigh, Bimal Mehta, Lillian Dummer, Harriet Aird, Sinead McSorley, Venessa Oseyenum, Anna Cumbers, Mary Ryan, Karl Edwardson, Phil Johnston, Jude Robinson, Frans Coenen, David Taylor-Robinson, Louis W. Niessen, Enitan D. Carrol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Non-urgent emergency department (ED) attendances are common among children. Primary care management may not only be more clinically appropriate, but may also improve patient experience and be more cost-effective. Aim To determine the impact on admissions, waiting times, antibiotic prescribing, and treatment costs of integrating a GP into a paediatric ED. Design and setting Retrospective cohort study explored non-urgent ED presentations in a paediatric ED in north-west England. Method From 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2017, a GP was situated in the ED from 2.00 pm until 10.00 pm, 7 days a week. All children triaged as ‘green’ using the Manchester Triage System (non-urgent) were considered to be ‘GP appropriate’. In cases of GP non-availability, children considered non-urgent were managed by ED staff. Clinical and operational outcomes, as well as the healthcare costs of children managed by GPs and ED staff across the same timeframe over a 2-year period were compared. Results Of 115 000 children attending the ED over the study period, a complete set of data were available for 13 099 categorised as ‘GP appropriate’; of these, 8404 (64.2%) were managed by GPs and 4695 (35.8%) by ED staff. Median duration of ED stay was 39 min (interquartile range [IQR] 16–108 min) in the GP group and 165 min (IQR 104–222 min) in the ED group (P<0.001). Children in the GP group were less likely to be admitted as inpatients (odds ratio [OR] 0.16; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.13 to 0.20) and less likely to wait >4 hours before being admitted or discharged (OR 0.11; 95% CI = 0.08 to 0.13), but were more likely to receive antibiotics (OR 1.42; 95% CI = 1.27 to 1.58). Treatment costs were 18.4% lower in the group managed by the GP (P<0.0001). Conclusion Given the rising demand for children’s emergency services, GP in ED care models may improve the management of non-urgent ED presentations. However, further research that incorporates causative study designs is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E22-E30
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number702
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Emergency care
  • Paediatrics
  • Primary care
  • Y antibiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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