• This briefing summarises research that analysed data from over 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.
  • Patients seeing their usual GP two more times out of every 10 was associated with 6% fewer avoidable hospital admissions.

Download the briefing Reducing hospital admissions by improving continuity of care in general practice.

Key points

  • Continuity of care is an aspect of general practice valued by patients and GPs alike. However, it seems to be in decline in England.
  • Our analysis, published in The BMJ and summarised in this briefing, looks at the link between continuity of care and hospital admissions for older patients in England. We looked specifically at admissions for conditions that could potentially be prevented through effective treatment in primary care. 
  • We found there to be fewer hospital admissions – both elective and emergency – for these conditions for patients who experience higher continuity of care (ie those who see the same GP a greater proportion of the time). Controlling for patient characteristics, we estimate that if patients saw their most frequently seen GP two more times out of every 10 consultations, this would be associated with a 6% decrease in admissions. 
  • To improve continuity for patients, general practices who are not already doing so could set prompts on their booking systems and encourage receptionists to book patients to their usual GP. Patients could also be encouraged to request their usual GP.
  • Clinical commissioning groups and NHS England Area Teams could work with general practices to support quality improvement initiatives that maintain or improve continuity of care.
  • Future national initiatives should have a well developed understanding of how and why the policy will impact on continuity in a particular context.