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Cross-sectional analysis of hospital tasks handed over to general practitioners: workload delegation or dumping?

Abstract

Purpose of the study New requirements for hospital clinicians to follow up and act on hospital-initiated investigations were introduced in 2016 in the National Health Service standard contract. We aimed to evaluate the tasks handed over from hospital clinicians to general practitioners (GPs).

Study design A retrospective observation of all tasks in a random sample of electronic discharge summaries at a university teaching hospital over a 1 month period was conducted. A single-best-answer questionnaire was circulated among hospital clinicians over 3 months to gain an understanding of their follow-up and referral practices.

Results The total number of tasks found on discharge summaries (n=178) were 227, of which 39% were directed at GPs and 61% at the hospital team. Of 89 tasks delegated to GPs, 33% were inappropriate. Some tasks on discharge summaries were delegated more frequently to GPs such as blood tests (73%) and endoscopy requests (67%). While others were undertaken more often by hospitals clinicians including imaging requests (88%), follow-up appointments (87%) and onward referrals (71%). Surveyed doctors (n=72) admitted to asking GPs to follow up blood tests (52%), imaging and endoscopy (16%) and make onward referrals for related conditions (14%) and unrelated conditions (70%).

Conclusion The majority of outstanding tasks in the hospital setting were followed up by hospital clinicians. A considerable volume of tasks were delegated to GPs, of which a significant proportion were inappropriate. An increase in awareness and understanding among hospital clinicians of their responsibility to follow up hospital-initiated investigations is needed.

  • primary care
  • clinical governance
  • organisational development
  • risk management

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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