Telephone appointments have become more and more popular in recent years. In the last twelve months, 11% of our consultations have been by telephone.
Unfortunately, we have increasingly found that many of the calls are about matters that could be dealt with by our administrative/reception staff or were about a medical matter that actually needed a face-to-face consultation with the GP. A recent Audit looked at the reason for 100 telephone consultations in January this year. It showed that:
Over one-third of the telephone consultations were either to the wrong person or could not be dealt with on the phone.
· requests for repeat medications
· administrative requests ( eg EMIS Access password resets)
· medical matters that could not be dealt with by phone, such as rashes, abdominal or chest pain, fevers, coughs, bruising etc. These cases always involve a patient coming in to see the GP, so two appointments have been used instead of one.
5 calls were not answered by the patient
The remainder were appropriate follow-up for existing medical conditions such as mental health issues or women’s urine infections or the doctors had requested follow-up by telephone.
If we were able to reduce the number of incorrectly managed telephone calls to zero, we would be able to offer an extra 421 face-to-face appointments, or 842 telephone consultations, per year.
To ensure that telephone appointments are only booked in the right circumstances, we have asked our receptionists to ask the following question when requested by a patient:
“Please could you give me a brief description of the reason for the call?’’
The receptionist will then be able to direct you to the most appropriate person to help you.
Listed below are the circumstances where the receptionists are able to book you a telephone appointment with the Doctor:
· Where the doctor or nurse has asked you to make a telephone appointment
· A follow-up from a previous consultation, where you don’t need to be examined.
· A woman with a bladder infection or cystitis symptoms
· A relative requesting a discussion with the GP
Telephone appointments with the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations can still be made, once a Travel Questionnaire has been submitted.
We won’t be able to book telephone appointments in the following instances:
· where patients are overseas. The receptionist will advise callers to seek medical advice locally
· where a patient has a new rash. These will always need to be seen by a doctor at a face-to-face appointment
· medical emergencies. These can never be dealt with by a telephone consultation and the receptionist will advise the caller to dial 999.
· Where a patient refuses to give the receptionist a reason for the requested call. Patients can of course still request a face-to-face appointment.
· where patients are asking about matters that can be dealt with by the reception or admin teams, such as:
- Ø asking about completing a form
- Ø passing a message to a doctor
- Ø chasing up a referral or a Choose and Book query
- Ø a Patient Access query
- Ø repeat prescription requests
- Ø requests for medication that the patient has had before
Please make sure that, if you have a telephone appointment booked with the Doctor or nurse, you are available and able to speak at the time of the call.
We hope that patients understand the reasons for this change. It will help us to make sure that we still have lots of appointments available for our patients, at a time they want them.