Study questions impact of NHS Direct on GP visits

December 12, 2002

The introduction of NHS Direct had no impact on the number of general practice consultations during the winter of 1999-2000, finds a study in this week's BMJ, despite speculation that there was an influenza epidemic but that people were telephoning NHS Direct instead of visiting their general practitioner.

Researchers grouped practices according to the degree of cover provided by NHS Direct during the winter of 1999-2000. They compared weekly data on new episodes of influenza-like illness and other respiratory infections during this period with the three preceding winters.

Their results do not support the suggestion that an influenza epidemic occurred in the winter of 1999-2000 but was under-reported as a result of people contacting NHS Direct instead of visiting their general practitioner.

There was a small decrease in the level of influenza-like illness in practices covered by NHS Direct since November 1999 compared with other groups, but this is unlikely to be due to the introduction of the service, say the authors.

NHS Direct was not introduced to decrease or increase the number of general practice consultations but to make consultations more appropriate, they add.


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