Background: Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs) have recently been deployed to provide out-of-hours primary care home visits - a practice development that has been supported by policy makers. The aim of the study was to evaluate the care provided to patients receiving out-of-hours home visits from ECPs in London from the patients' perspective and to assess their wellbeing following the visit.
Methods: A bespoke telephone-administered questionnaire was designed to survey all patients who had received out-of-hours care in Bromley Primary Care Trust from ECPs during a ten week period in 2005 (n = 174).
Results: Sixty three patients (36.2%) were excluded because: no telephone number was available; they had a diagnosis of dementia; or had not received a study information sheet. The remainder (n = 111) were contacted 3-5 days after the home visit, and 81 of these (73.0%) completed the survey. Of those respondents treated at home who gave unequivocal answers (n = 60), all but one (8.3%) reported that they felt that their treatment had been 'right' and/or had followed any advice given. However, overall only 86.4% reported that they had been clear about their ECP's assessment, and only 58.0% reported that their health was now 'better'. Those who reported that they were not clear about their assessment were less likely to report that their health was 'better' (p = 0.03) and more likely to have subsequently used hospital-based health services (p = 0.03).
Conclusion: Most patients treated at home by ECPs appeared satisfied and compliant with the care provided, according to the measures used in this study. However, it appears that a sizeable minority of patients were unclear about ECP assessments and it remains to be seen whether these patients had pre-existing health complaints which made them less likely to recover and more likely to seek hospital care, or whether the lack of clarity about their assessment undermined their subsequent recovery and necessitated hospital care. Further research is required to establish if the assessments provided by ECPs are less clear than those provided by other practitioners, and whether it is possible to ensure that all such assessments are clear to all patients. Patients hold a mainly positive view of out-of-hours home visit care provided by ECPs, although a lack of clarity about their assessment was evident, with a possible impact on their continuing health.