BACKGROUND: Hospital admission rates are increasing for children with acute gastroenteritis. However, it is unknown whether this increase is accompanied by an increase in referral rates from GPs due to increased workloads in primary care out-of-hours (OOH) services.
AIM: To assess trends in referral rates from primary care OOH services to specialist emergency care for children presenting with acute gastroenteritis.
DESIGN & SETTING: This retrospective cohort study covered a period from September 2007-September 2014. Children aged 6 months to 6 years presenting with acute gastroenteritis to a primary care OOH service were included.
METHOD: Pseudonymised data were obtained, and children were analysed overall and by age category. Χ2 trend tests were used to assess rates of acute gastroenteritis, referrals, face-to-face contacts, and oral rehydration therapy (ORT) prescriptions.
RESULTS: The data included 12 455 children (6517 boys), with a median age of 20.2 months (interquartile range [IQR] 11.6 to 36.0 months). Over 7 years, incidence rates of acute gastroenteritis decreased significantly, and face-to-face contact rates increased significantly (both, P<0.01). However, there was no significant trend for referral rates (P = 0.87) or prescription rates for ORT (P = 0.82). Subgroup analyses produced comparable results, although there was an increase in face-to-face contact rates for the older children.
CONCLUSION: Incidence rates for childhood acute gastroenteritis presenting in OOH services decreased and referral rates did not increase significantly. These findings may be useful as a reference for the impact of new interventions for childhood acute gastroenteritis.