Primary care telephone triage does not save money or reduce practice workload

The University of Bristol 4th August reports: Primary care telephone triage does not save money or reduce practice workload

It looks as if the balloon of the “virtual GP” has been pricked and deflated. Living with uncertainty, which is a large part of the skill of Primary Care GPs, is hard enough if you examine the patient, and harder still if you don’t. The litigation alone is worrying, and my own practice has abandoned triage some time ago now..  It is good to know the decision has been vindicated. The cost of the calls to mobiles is another matter, as is consultant phone triage…. Is triage a case of when less is really more? At least video conferencing (Skype etc) gives the chance to see as well as hear.

Demand for general practice appointments is rising rapidly, and in an attempt to deal with this, many practices have introduced systems of telephone triage. Patients are phoned by a doctor or nurse who either manages the problem on the phone, or agrees with the patient whether and how urgently they need to be seen.

A new large study, published in The Lancet today  ESTEEM study [4 August] and funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has investigated the potential value of telephone triage for patients and for the NHS….

Rebecca Smith also covers this in The Telegraph 4th August 2014: GP phone consultations 50% more likely to need follow up

GP telephone consultations fails to reduce workload and is no cheaper, despite a drive from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a study has found

Sky News: GP Phone Calls ‘Don’t Save Time Or Money’ – Sky News

Phone consultations unlikely to reduce GP workloads, says

How dial-a-GP diagnosis leads to repeat visits: Patients

NHS reality postings including Triage:

GP A&E Triage – would be a good idea if we had planned for the numbers needed. We have not.. and GP partnership and continuity of care is in decline

GP numbers tumble in England as recruitment crisis bites

Radical plan to save our overstretched doctors’ surgeries. “Every patient should be able to see their family doctor when they need to”.

I can book a rental car. Why not to see my GP? Your doctor will see you . . . in a fortnight..

GP out-of-hours care in Cardiff and Vale ‘diabolical’, watchdog clams

A welcome plan to ease the pressure on hospitals – watch for the correspondence.

NHS faces crisis in litigation as well as A&E. Introduce no fault compensation (NFC)?

‘Virtual wards’ urged as answer to strain on NHS




This entry was posted in A Personal View, General Practitioners, Professionals, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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