Factors associated with potentially missed acute deterioration in primary care: cohort study of UK general practices

Elizabeth Cecil, Alex Bottle, Azeem Majeed, Paul Aylin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background In the UK, while most primary care contacts are uncomplicated, safety incidents do occur and result in patient harm, for example, failure to recognise a patient's deterioration in health. Aim To determine the patient and healthcare factors associated with potentially missed acute deterioration in health. Design and setting Cohort of patients registered with English Clinical Practice Research Datalink general practices between 1 April 2014 and 31 December 2017 with linked hospital data. Method A potentially missed acute deterioration was defined as a patient having a self-referred admission to hospital having been seen in primary care by a GP in the 3 days beforehand. All diagnoses and subsets of commonly-reported missed conditions were analysed. Results A total of 116 097 patients contacted a GP 3 days before an emergency admission. Patients with sepsis (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.09, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.01 to 1.18) or urinary tract infections (aOR 1.09, 95% CI = 1.04 to 1.14) were more likely to self-refer. The duration of GP appointments was associated with self-referral. On average, a 5-minute increase in appointment time resulted in a 10% decrease in the odds of self-referred admissions (aOR 0.90, 95% CI = 0.89 to 0.91). Patients having a telephone consultation (compared with face-to-face consultation) (aOR 1.14, 95% CI = 1.11 to 1.18) previous health service use, and presence of comorbidities were also associated with self-referred admission. Conclusion Differentiating acute deterioration from self-limiting conditions can be difficult for clinicians, particularly in patients with sepsis, urinary tract infections, or long-term conditions. The findings of this study support the call for longer GP consultations and caution against reliance on telephone consultations in primary care; however, more research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e547-e554
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number708
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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