Abstract Background Various models exist to organize out-of-hours primary care (OOH-PC). We aimed to provide an up-to-date overview of prevailing organizational models in the European Union (EU), implemented changes over the last decade and future plans. This baseline overview may provide information for countries considering remodelling their OOH-PC system. Methods A cross-sectional web-based questionnaire among 93 key informants from EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. Key informants with expertise in the field of primary health care were invited to participate. Themes in the questionnaire were the existing organizational models for OOH-PC, model characteristics, major organizational changes implemented in the past decade and future plans. Results All 26 included countries had different coexisting OOH-PC models, varying from 3 to 10 models per country. ‘GP cooperative was the dominant model in most countries followed by primary care centre and rota group’. There was a large variation in characteristics between the models, but also within the models, caused by differences between countries and regions. Almost all countries had implemented changes over the past 10 years, mostly concerning the implementation of telephone triage and a change of organizational model by means of upscaling and centralization of OOH-PC. Planned changes varied from fine-tuning the prevailing OOH-PC system to radical nationwide organizational transitions in OOH-PC. Conclusions Different organizational models for OOH-PC exist on international and national level. Compared with a decade ago, more primary care-oriented organizational models are now dominant. There is a trend towards upscaling and centralization; it should be evaluated whether this improves the quality of health care.
Luca Steeman, Maike Uijen, Erik Plat