Emergency department clinical leads' experiences of implementing primary care services where GPs work in or alongside emergency departments in the UK: a qualitative study

Michelle Edwards*, Alison Cooper, Freya Davies, Rebecca Sherlock, Andrew Carson-Stevens, Delyth Price, Alison Porter, Bridie Evans, Saiful Islam, Helen Snooks, Pippa Anderson, Aloysius Niroshan Siriwardena, Peter Hibbert, Thomas Hughes, Matthew Cooke, Jeremy Dale, Adrian Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: To manage increasing demand for emergency and unscheduled care NHS England policy has promoted services in which patients presenting to Emergency Departments (EDs) with non-urgent problems are directed to general practitioners (GPs) and other primary care clinicians working within or alongside emergency departments. However, the ways that hospitals have implemented primary care services in EDs are varied. The aim of this study was to describe ED clinical leads' experiences of implementing and delivering 'primary care services' and 'emergency medicine services' where GPs were integrated into the ED team. Methods: We conducted interviews with ED clinical leads in England (n = 19) and Wales (n = 2). We used framework analysis to analyse interview transcripts and explore differences across 'primary care services', 'emergency medicine services' and emergency departments without primary care services. Results: In EDs with separate primary care services, success was reported when having a distinct workforce of primary care clinicians, who improved waiting times and flow by seeing primary care-type patients in a timely way, using fewer investigations, and enabling ED doctors to focus on more acutely unwell patients. Some challenges were: trying to align their service with the policy guidance, inconsistent demand for primary care, accessible community primary care services, difficulties in recruiting GPs, lack of funding, difficulties in agreeing governance protocols and establishing effective streaming pathways. Where GPs were integrated into an ED workforce success was reported as managing the demand for both emergency and primary care and reducing admissions. Conclusions: Introducing a policy advocating a preferred model of service to address primary care demand was not useful for all emergency departments. To support successful and sustainable primary care services in or alongside EDs, policy makers and commissioners should consider varied ways that GPs can be employed to manage variation in local demand and also local contextual factors such as the ability to recruit and retain GPs, sustainable funding, clear governance frameworks, training, support and guidance for all staff. Whether or not streaming to a separate primary care service is useful also depended on the level of primary care demand.

Original languageEnglish
Article number62
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Emergency care
  • General practitioners
  • Urgent care


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