Improving primary care Access in Context and Theory (I-ACT trial): a theory-informed randomised cluster feasibility trial using a realist perspective

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Background: Primary care access can be challenging for older, rural, socio-economically disadvantaged populations. Here we report the I-ACT cluster feasibility trial which aims to assess the feasibility of trial design and context-sensitive intervention to improve primary care access for this group and so expand existing theory.

Methods: Four general practices were recruited; three randomised to intervention and one to usual care. Intervention practices received £1500, a support manual and four meetings to develop local, innovative solutions to improve the booking system and transport.

Patients aged over 64 years old and without household car access were recruited to complete questionnaires when booking an appointment or attending the surgery. Outcome measures at 6 months included: self-reported ease of booking an appointment and transport; health care use; patient activation; capability; and quality of life. A process evaluation involved observations and interviews with staff and participants.

Results: Thirty-four patients were recruited (26 female, eight male, mean age 81.6 years for the intervention group and 79.4 for usual care) of 1143 invited (3% response rate). Most were ineligible because of car access. Twenty-nine participants belonged to intervention practices and five to usual care. Practice-level data was available for all participants, but participant self-reported data was unavailable for three. Fifty-six appointment questionnaires were received based on 150 appointments (37.3%).

Practices successfully designed and implemented the following context-sensitive interventions: Practice A: a stacked telephone system and promoting community transport; Practice B: signposting to community transport, appointment flexibility, mobility scooter charging point and promoting the role of receptionists; and Practice C: local taxi firm partnership and training receptionists. Practices found the process acceptable because it gave freedom, time and resource to be innovative or provided an opportunity to implement existing ideas. Data collection methods were acceptable to participants, but some found it difficult remembering to complete booking and appointment questionnaires. Expanded theory highlighted important mechanisms, such as reassurance, confidence, trust and flexibility.

Conclusions: Recruiting older participants without access to a car proved challenging. Retention of participants and practices was good but only about a third of appointment questionnaires were returned. This study design may facilitate a shift from one-size-fits-all interventions to more context-sensitive interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number193
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2019

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