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What gives rise to clinician gut feeling, its influence on management decisions and its prognostic value for children with RTI in primary care: A prospective cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Family Practice
Issue number1
DateAccepted/In press - 24 Jan 2018
DatePublished (current) - 5 Feb 2018


Background: The objectives were to identify 1) the clinician and child characteristics associated with; 2) clinical management decisions following from, and; 3) the prognostic value of; a clinician's 'gut feeling something is wrong' for children presenting to primary care with acute cough and respiratory tract infection (RTI). Methods: Multicentre prospective cohort study where 518 primary care clinicians across 244 general practices in England assessed 8394 children aged ≥3 months and < 16 years for acute cough and RTI. The main outcome measures were: Self-reported clinician 'gut feeling'; clinician management decisions (antibiotic prescribing, referral for acute admission); and child's prognosis (reconsultation with evidence of illness deterioration, hospital admission in the 30 days following recruitment). Results: Clinician years since qualification, parent reported symptoms (illness severity score ≥ 7/10, severe fever < 24 h, low energy, shortness of breath) and clinical examination findings (crackles/ crepitations on chest auscultation, recession, pallor, bronchial breathing, wheeze, temperature ≥ 37.8 °C, tachypnoea and inflamed pharynx) independently contributed towards a clinician 'gut feeling that something was wrong'. 'Gut feeling' was independently associated with increased antibiotic prescribing and referral for secondary care assessment. After adjustment for other associated factors, gut feeling was not associated with reconsultations or hospital admissions. Conclusions: Clinicians were more likely to report a gut feeling something is wrong, when they were more experienced or when children were more unwell. Gut feeling is independently and strongly associated with antibiotic prescribing and referral to secondary care, but not with two indicators of poor child health.

    Research areas

  • Child, Cough, Decision making, Emotions, Paediatric, Primary health care, Prognosis, Respiratory tract infections

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    Licence: CC BY


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