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Fam Pract. 2017 Dec 20. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmx121. [Epub ahead of print]

Ambulance dispatch versus general practitioner home visit for highly urgent out-of-hours primary care.

Author information

Radboud university medical center, Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Scientific Center for Quality of Healthcare (IQ healthcare), Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Mobile Doctors Service Foundation Haaglanden [Stichting Mobiele Artsen Service Haaglanden (SMASH)], The Hague, The Netherlands.
Municipal Health Service Haaglanden [Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst (GGD) Haaglanden], The Hague, The Netherlands.



Patients with life-threatening conditions who contact out-of-hours primary care either receive a home visit from a GP of a GP cooperative (GPC) or are handed over to the ambulance service.


The objective of this study was to determine whether highly urgent visits, after a call to the GPC, are delivered by the most appropriate healthcare provider: GPC or ambulance service.


We performed a cross-sectional study using patient record data from a GPC and ambulance service in an urban district in The Netherlands. During a 21-month period, all calls triaged as life-threatening (U1) to the GPCs were included. The decision to send an ambulance or not was made by the triage nurse following a protocolized triage process. Retrospectively, the most appropriate care was judged by the patient's own GP, using a questionnaire.


Patient and care characteristics from 1081 patients were gathered: 401 GPC visits, 570 ambulance responses and 110 with both ambulance and GPC deployment. In 598 of 1081 (55.3%) cases, questionnaires were returned by the patients' own GP. About 40% of all visits could have been carried out with a lower urgency in retrospect, and almost half of all visits should have received a different type of care or different provider. In case of ambulance response, 60.7% concerned chest pain.


Research should be done on the process of triage and allocation of care to optimize labelling complaints with the appropriate urgency and to deploy the appropriate healthcare provider, especially for patients with chest pain.


Access to care; emergency medicine; family health; primary care; quality of care; urgent care


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