A consultation-level intervention to improve care of frequently attending patients: A cluster randomised controlled feasibility trial
Barnes RK., Cramer H., Thomas C., Sanderson E., Hollinghurst S., Metcalfe C., Jackson S., Record C., Thorley H., Kessler D.
© 2019, The Authors. Background: Frequent attenders (FAs) to primary care receive considerable NHS resources without necessarily gaining benefit, and may even be harmed. Aim: To assess the feasibility of a consultation-level intervention to improve care and address service use of FAs. Design & setting: A cluster randomised controlled feasibility trial was undertaken. The study used a mixed-methods process evaluation and took place in six practices in England. Method: All practices screened the top 3% of all attending patients over the previous 12 months for eligibility. Following randomisation, intervention patients were matched with named GPs, trained to use the Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling, Empathy (BATHE) technique during consultations. Telephone consultations were encouraged. Feasibility outcomes assessed were recruitment, retention, data collection and completeness, implementation fidelity, and acceptability Results: A total of 599/1328 (45.1%) FAs were eligible. Four practices were randomised to the intervention (n = 451) and two to usual care (n = 148). A total of 96 (23.7%) patients were recruited to complete questionnaires. Retention and completeness of data were good; for example, 76% of those agreeing to complete questionnaires did so at the 12-month assessment point. Thirty-four GPs were trained and delivered BATHE ≥1 times to 50.1% of patients (n = 577 consultations). There were minimal increases in continuity and telephone consultations. Patients were positive about the intervention, but noticed little change in their care. Despite valuing BATHE, low adherence to training was indicated and GPs used it less than anticipated. Conclusion: It was feasible to identify FAs and collect trial data. GPs were keen to engage and there was evidence that the BATHE technique was taken into practice. Optimising training is likely to improve fidelity. The intervention was low cost and low risk.