Open Access Research article

Triumph of hope over experience: learning from interventions to reduce avoidable hospital admissions identified through an Academic Health and Social Care Network

Victoria Woodhams1, Simon de Lusignan12*, Shakeel Mughal3, Graham Head4, Safia Debar5, Terry Desombre1, Sean Hilton2 and Houda Al Sharifi6

Author affiliations

1 Department of Health Care Management and Policy, University of Surrey, GUILDFORD, GU2 7XH, UK

2 Division of Population Health Sciences and Education, Hunter Wing, St. George’s – University of London, LONDON, SW17 0RE, UK

3 Central Wandsworth Community Ward, Southfield Group Practice, 492a Merton Road, London, SW18 5AE, UK

4 The Sollis Partnership Ltd 20 Hook Road, Epsom, Surrey, KT19 8TR, UK

5 Portobello Clinic, 12 Raddington Road, LONDON, W10 5TG, UK

6 Room 147, 1st Floor, Wandsworth Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London, SW18 2PU, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:153  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-153

Published: 10 June 2012



Internationally health services are facing increasing demands due to new and more expensive health technologies and treatments, coupled with the needs of an ageing population. Reducing avoidable use of expensive secondary care services, especially high cost admissions where no procedure is carried out, has become a focus for the commissioners of healthcare.


We set out to identify, evaluate and share learning about interventions to reduce avoidable hospital admission across a regional Academic Health and Social Care Network (AHSN). We conducted a service evaluation identifying initiatives that had taken place across the AHSN. This comprised a literature review, case studies, and two workshops.


We identified three types of intervention: pre-hospital; within the emergency department (ED); and post-admission evaluation of appropriateness. Pre-hospital interventions included the use of predictive modelling tools (PARR – Patients at risk of readmission and ACG – Adjusted Clinical Groups) sometimes supported by community matrons or virtual wards. GP-advisers and outreach nurses were employed within the ED. The principal post-hoc interventions were the audit of records in primary care or the application of the Appropriateness Evaluation Protocol (AEP) within the admission ward. Overall there was a shortage of independent evaluation and limited evidence that each intervention had an impact on rates of admission.


Despite the frequency and cost of emergency admission there has been little independent evaluation of interventions to reduce avoidable admission. Commissioners of healthcare should consider interventions at all stages of the admission pathway, including regular audit, to ensure admission thresholds don’t change.

(MeSH): Hospitalization; Health Services Misuse; Outcome and Process Assessment (Health Care); Home Care Services; Hospital based [economics; *organisation and administration]