Effects of service changes affecting distance/time to access urgent and emergency care facilities on patient outcomes: a systematic review
Reconfiguration of urgent and emergency care services often increases travel time/distance for patients to reach an appropriate facility. Evidence of the effects of reconfiguration is important for local communities and commissioners and providers of health services. We performed a systematic review of the evidence regarding effects of service reconfigurations that increase the time/distance for some patients to reach an urgent and emergency care (UEC) facility. We searched seven bibliographic
... even bibliographic databases from 2000 to February 2019 and used citation tracking and reference lists to identify additional studies. We included studies of any design that compared outcomes for people with conditions requiring emergency treatment before and after service reconfiguration with an associated change in travel time/distance to access UEC. Studies had to be conducted in the UK or other developed countries. Data extraction and quality assessment (using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist for quasi-experimental studies) were undertaken by a single reviewer with a sample checked for accuracy and consistency. We performed a narrative synthesis of the included studies. Overall strength of evidence was assessed using a previously published method that considers volume, quality and consistency. We included 12 studies, of which six were conducted in the USA, two in the UK and four in other European countries. The studies used a variety of observational designs, with before-after and cohort designs being most common. Only two studies included an independent control site/sites where no reconfiguration had taken place. The reconfigurations evaluated in these studies reported relatively small effects on average travel times/distance. For studies of general UEC populations, there was no convincing evidence as to whether reconfiguration affected mortality risk. However, evidence of increased risk was identified from studies of patients with acute myocardial infarction, particularly 1 to 4 years after reconfiguration. Evidence for other conditions was inconsistent or very limited. We found insufficient evidence to determine whether increased distance to UEC increases mortality risk for the general population of people requiring UEC, although this conclusion may not extend to people with specific conditions.