A consultation-level intervention to improve care of frequently attending patients: a cluster randomised controlled feasibility trial

Rebecca Barnes, Helen Cramer, Clare Thomas, Emily Sanderson, Sandra Hollinghurst, Chris Metcalfe, Sue Jackson, Charlie Record, Helen Thorley, David Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
317 Downloads (Pure)


Frequent attenders (FAs) receive considerable NHS resources without necessarily gaining benefit and may even be harmed.

Assess the feasibility of a consultation-level intervention to improve care and address service use of FAs.

Design and setting
Cluster randomised controlled feasibility trial with mixed-methods process evaluation in six practices in England.

All practices screened their top 3% attenders over the previous 12 months for eligibility. Following randomisation, intervention patients were matched with named General Practitioners (GPs) trained to use the BATHE technique during consultations. Telephone consultations were encouraged. Feasibility outcomes assessed were recruitment, retention, data collection and completeness, implementation fidelity and acceptability.

599/1328 (45.1%) FAs were eligible. Four practices were randomised to the intervention (n=451) and two to usual care (n=148). 96 (23.7%) patients were recruited to complete questionnaires. Retention and completeness of data were good, 76% of those agreeing to complete questionnaires did so at the 12 month assessment point. 35 GPs were trained and delivered BATHE one or more times to 50.1% patients (n=577 consultations). There were minimal increases in continuity and telephone consultations. Patients were positive about the intervention but noticed little change in their care. Despite valuing BATHE, low adherence to training was indicated and GPs used it less than anticipated.

It was feasible to identify FAs and collect trial data. GPs were keen to engage and there was evidence that the BATHE technique was taken into practice. Optimising training is likely to improve fidelity. The intervention was low cost and low risk.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbjgpopen18X101623
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice Open
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Structured keywords

  • BTC (Bristol Trials Centre)
  • BRTC


  • General Practice
  • frequent attendance
  • feasibility studies
  • continuity of care
  • BATHE technique
  • process evaluation


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