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General practice patients in the emergency department

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Mostly, it is more appropriate for patients to seek care in the emergency department rather than visit a general practitioner

One of the mysteries of public policy is that at times the public discourse settles on a perspective that is based on flimsy or even contradictory evidence. One such discussion relates to the factors that contribute to the congestion of hospital emergency departments (EDs) in Australia.

In Australia, 30% of people attend EDs each year and that rate is growing at 2% per annum.1,2 The reasons behind this are unclear; however, demographic factors (eg, ageing population), epidemiological factors (eg, rising rates of chronic disease), health system changes (eg, the scope and availability of primary care) and individual factors (eg, socioeconomic status) are likely contributing factors. The relative contribution of these factors is unknown. The growth in ED attendance is across all age groups, among more urgent categories and highest for trauma.3

There are more people seeking care in EDs (increased demand) and EDs continue to experience difficulty obtaining access to ongoing care for their patients (access block). Access block is a direct consequence of diminishing per capita…