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Keywords:

  • access;
  • minor illness unit;
  • primary care;
  • re-attendance;
  • walk-in centre

Abstract

Rationale, aims and objectives  Minor Illness and Injury Units (MIUs) are becoming a key element in the Urgent Care strategies of Primary Care Trusts. They are intended to both improve access to primary care and to reduce the workload of hospital emergency departments. Their efficiency in resolving patients' needs for health care has been questioned. We sought to describe subsequent health care utilisation among people attending two MIUs in Sunderland, UK.

Method  Audit of all patients who attended the MIUs during two separate week-long blocks with General Practitioner (GP) case note review of those who had been either treated and discharged or referred to their GP.

Results  A total of 1995 patients from 38 practices attended during the study period. 1262 (63.3%) were treated and discharged and 281 (14.1%) referred to the GP. In the subsequent 7 days 336 (21.8%) attended their GP, 37 (2.4%) attended an emergency department and 18 (1.2%) reattended the MIU. Overall, 855 (42.9%) of all attenders required further care, and in 265 (29.9%) this was unscheduled.

Conclusion  Although most people attending Minor Illness and Injury Units are treated and discharged, subsequent use of health care services is common and in a third of cases is unscheduled. This calls into question the effectiveness of MIUs as an alternative to general practice but may reflect a need for better signposting of patients to the service best suited to their needs.