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Article on Out of Hours Services

07 November 2018
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  2018 Oct 13;12:56. doi: 10.1186/s13033-018-0235-x. eCollection 2018.

Health system changes needed to support people consulting general practice out of hoursservices in Ireland.

Collins CO'Shea MTCunniffe JFinegan P.



Mental illness acts as a barrier to accessing and obtaining effective medical care. It has been shown that out of hours services are an important first stop for emergency care for people experiencing mental health difficulties. However, little is in fact known about the use of out of hours general practice services by people experiencing mental health difficulties.


To establish the number and range of consultations that have a primary or related mental health issue attending general practitioner (GP) out of hours and to document adherence to their follow-up care referral.


Descriptive study in one large out of hours primary care service in the South East of Ireland (Caredoc).


An anonymous extraction of retrospective data from 1 year of the out of hours' electronic database was undertaken. Patients who attended the out of hours with a possible mental health issue and were referred to the psychiatric services or back to their own GP, were tracked via phone follow-up with hospitals and GPs over 6 months to establish if they attended for the recommend follow-up care.


Over a 1 year period, there were 3844 out of hours presentations with a mental health component. Overall, 9.3% were referred by the out of hours GP for follow-up to a hospital emergency department (ED) or were advised to attend their own GP. A total of 104 patients who were advised to attend their GP or ED following their consultation with the out of hours GP were tracked. Twenty-seven patients were referred back to their GP of which the follow-up call to the GP revealed that 44.5% did not attend. Seventy-seven patients were referred to the hospital services, of whom 37.7% did not attend.


There are significant challenges at the interface of primary care and secondary mental health services in Ireland. As expounded by the WHO and WONCA, in order to be effective and efficient, care for mental health must be coordinated with services at different levels of care complemented by the broader health system.


Adherence; Follow-up; General practice; Mental illness; Out of hours

PMID:30344620 PMCID:PMC6186104 DOI:10.1186/s13033-018-0235-x

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