Hospital accident and emergency departments are facing increased demand as a result of the changes to the GP contract introduced two years ago, according to a study.

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Hospital accident and emergency departments are facing increased demand as a result of the changes to the GP contract introduced two years ago, according to a study.

The contract allowed many GPs to transfer out-of-hours care to primary care organisations.

The study, by researchers at WarwickUniversity's medical school, reviewed patient numbers in Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull Hospitals, both part of Heart of England foundation trust.

They found that since 2004, out-of-hours attendances had increased 27 per cent in the emergency departments and that there was a 9 per cent increase in self-referrals.

Attendances for less severe conditions, which could normally be seen by a GP, had increased by 51 per cent.

Over the same period, the number of attendances for major illnesses or trauma, for which patients would normally go to A&E, hardly changed at all, say the researchers.

One of the biggest increases was in the number of parents bringing children in with respiratory conditions, which is the most common problem seen by GPs in the out-of-hours period.

At both of the hospitals involved in the study, the trust established out-of-hours GP services located next to the A&E departments allowing patients to be seen by the most appropriate staff.