Variation in periodontal referral in 2 regions in the UK

G J Linden, M Stevenson, F J Burke
Journal of Clinical Periodontology 1999, 26 (9): 590-5
This study investigated the periodontal referral patterns of general dental practitioners (GDPs) in Northern Ireland (NI) and North West England (NWE). A questionnaire dealing with periodontal referral was sent to all 520 GDPs registered in NI and to 274 GDPs in NWE. A usable return was made by 355 (68%) in NI and 189 (70%) in NWE. The NI dentists made significantly more periodontal referrals (median 5, range 0-80) in the year preceding the survey than those in NWE (median 2, range 0-50), p<0.001. Distance was the only factor significantly related to the referral rate in both regions with those who practised more than 25 miles from a specialist referring significantly fewer patients in both regions. In NI, there was a trend towards increased periodontal referral by GDPs who had attended more postgraduate courses; however, in NWE, this was not the case. The GDPs in NWE were significantly less likely than those in NI to refer patients with medical conditions. It is concluded that there is considerable variation in periodontal referral both within and between the 2 regions studied. It is further concluded that in many cases, non-disease factors, such as the accessibility of the specialist service, have powerful effects on the decisions made by dentists and patients in these regions (NI and NWE) in relation to periodontal referral. Much of the variance in referral in North West England, as in Northern Ireland, remains unexplained.

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