Objective: To assess the extent of frequent attendance as a persistent characteristic of patients by repeat studies of attendance at a health centre.
Design: A follow-up of frequent attenders and compared patients in 1991 among frequent attenders in 1996.
Setting: Mariehem health centre in Umeå in northern Sweden providing care for 10,500 and 12,000 inhabitants in 1991 and 1996, respectively.
Subjects: Frequent attenders, defined as patients who had at least 5 consultations with physicians during 1 year at the health centre, compared to attenders who had between 1 and 4 consultations in 1991 and 1996.
Results: The proportion of people who lived in the area and consulted a doctor at the health centre at least once during 1 year increased from 40.0% in 1991 to 45.2% in 1996. The number of frequent attenders increased from 179 to 303 and they took 15% and 20% of all consultations in 1991 and 1996, respectively. Twenty-five patients (21 females and 4 males) were identified as frequent attenders in both years.
Conclusion: With the exception of a small group of patients, mostly females, frequent attendance seems not to be a persistent characteristic of patients.