Category: 2.5. Telephone consultations
In 2006, the Limehouse Practice in East London found that patients were waiting a long time to be seen. All seven GPs were committed to their own lists of patients, but often saw each other’s as they attempted to improve access.
Doctors believed that moving to a system of telephone consultations during practice hours would increase capacity, as fewer patients would need to visit the surgery. They also saw it as a way of reinforcing doctor/patient relationships.
When patients call with a health issue, a message is taken and their registered doctor calls them back, usually within 24 hours. After that conversation, the doctor decides if he or she needs to see the patient. If so, the doctor makes an appointment, usually for that day or the next.
‘Using telephone consultations in this way makes us more efficient as a practice. But it also reaffirms the importance of primary care providers and the old-fashioned idea that GPs get to know their patients over a long time. That’s part of the reward of it,’ says Dr David Kirby, one of the GPs who uses this system.
Between 60% and 70% of callers make an appointment for a face-to-face consultation. The rest can be helped by phone, perhaps through advice, referrals, test results or repeat prescriptions. This system cuts waiting time and means that the doctors have already spoken to patients before they see them. This makes for more efficient consultations.
The doctors who use this system tend to make their calls in the early afternoon and evening, leaving the morning and later afternoon for face-to-face consultations.
Dr David Kirby, 020 7515 2211