Open Access Open Badges Research article

Exploration of population and practice characteristics explaining differences between practices in the proportion of hospital admissions that are emergencies

Chantelle Elizabeth Wiseman1 and Richard Baker2*

Author Affiliations

1 FY1 in ITU at Nevill Hall hospital, Cardiff, Wales, UK

2 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, 22-28 Princess Rd West, LE1 6TP, Leicester, UK

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-101

Published: 21 May 2014



Emergency (unscheduled) and elective (scheduled) use of secondary care varies between practices. Past studies have described factors associated with the number of emergency admissions; however, high quality care of chronic conditions, which might include increased specialist referrals, could be followed by reduced unscheduled care. We sought to characterise practices according to the proportion of total hospital admissions that were emergency admissions, and identify predictors of this proportion.


The study included 229 general practices in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, England. Publicly available data were obtained on scheduled and unscheduled secondary care usage, and on practice and patient characteristics: age; gender; list size; observed prevalence, expected prevalence and the prevalence gap of coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke; deprivation; headcount number of GPs per 1000 patients; total and clinical quality and outcomes framework (QOF) scores; ethnicity; proportion of patients seen within two days by a GP; proportion able to see their preferred GP. Using the proportion of admissions that were emergency admissions, seven categories of practices were created, and a regression analysis was undertaken to identify predictors of the proportion.


In univariate analysis, practices with higher proportions of admissions that were emergencies tended to have fewer older patients, higher proportions of male patients, fewer white patients, greater levels of deprivation, smaller list sizes, lower recorded prevalence of coronary heart disease and stroke, a bigger gap between the expected and recorded levels of stroke, and lower proportions of total and clinical QOF points achieved. In the multivariate regression, higher deprivation, fewer white patients, more male patients, lower recorded prevalence of hypertension, more outpatient appointments, and smaller practice list size were associated with higher proportions of total admissions being emergencies.


In monitoring use of secondary care services, the role of population characteristics in determining levels of use is important, but so too is the ability of practices to meet the demands for care that face them. The level of resources, and the way in which available resources are used, are likely to be key in determining whether a practice is able to meet the health care needs of its patients.

Primary care; Health services; Health planning