Variation in referrals from primary care to scheduled paediatric services in North and East Scotland - A cross-sectional study

Smita Dick, Ryen Crabb, Claire McFaul, Clare MacRae, Philip Wilson, Steve Turner* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Factors contributing to decisions to refer children for scheduled appointments at medical paediatric outpatient clinics are not well understood. Our aim was to describe practice-level characteristics associated with referrals to general paediatric clinics.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study the setting was general practices in three health boards in Scotland, NHS Grampian, NHS Highland and NHS Tayside The outcome was average annual number of referrals per 1000 children between 2011 and 2017. Univariate and multivariate analyses related the outcome to practice characteristics. For each practice the following characteristics were determined: distance from hospital; area deprivation; number of children registered; presence of ≥ 1 general practitioner with a child health interest and practice ownership.
Results: There were 62 practices in NHS Grampian, 63 in NHS Highland, and 65 in NHS Tayside; representative annual number of referrals to paediatric clinics per capita were 22, 34, and 35/1000 respectively. In the multivariate model, the number of referrals was inversely related to number of children in the practice (0.8 % fall per 1000 children [95 % confidence interval, CI, 0.5, 1.1]) and was higher from practices in the more deprived areas by a mean 55 % [95 % CI 9, 121] compared to less deprived areas. The number of referrals from a practice rose by 0.91 % [95 % CI 0.86, 0.97] for each additional partner in the practice.
Conclusion: Some practice-level characteristics were related to the standardised number of referrals, and associations differed between regions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number989
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors are grateful to colleagues in the health information departments of NHS Grampian, Highland and Tayside.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets generated during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  • Primary Health Care
  • General Practice
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Pediatrics
  • Health Services


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