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Patients to be screened before booking urgent GP appointments

Patients will be screened by the NHS 24 telephone advice service before being allowed to make same-day GP appointments under a trial scheme in a practice in Edinburgh.

From late November, most calls to the Riverside Practice in Musselburgh from patients requesting a same-day appointment will be sent to NHS 24. 

NHS 24 said that the service would be ‘very similar’ to the NHS 111 out-of-hours service provided throughout Scotland and would be staffed by a team of call handlers and nurse practitioners.

Under the scheme, patients with minor ailments or medicine queries could be directed to their community pharmacist, with others may be signposted to self-help information such as that on ’NHS Inform’.

In 2018, the service will expand to offer appointments to Riverside Practice patients with a range of clinical staff including nurse practitioners and physiotherapists.

It will not include all calls, with the following patients able to contact the practice direct:

  • a same-day appointment request for a patient from another healthcare professional;
  • patients receiving palliative care;
  • appointment requests for the practice nurse or phlebotomist;
  • appointment requests from recreational drug users;
  • appointment requests due to mental health conditions.

Riverside Practice partner Dr Richard Fairclough said: ‘This will help to ease the pressure on appointments and benefit service provision to all of our patients. We are encouraging all of our patients to support this new way of working.

’The initial call handling by our staff will ensure that we correctly identify those calls that NHS 24 are best placed to deal with.’

NHS 24 medical director Dr Laura Ryan said: ‘The GP triage project has already had one highly successful trial with a Practice in Forth Valley and as part of our overarching organisational improvement programme, we are actively seeking ways we can support a healthier Scotland by connecting people to health and care advice, information and support 24/7.’

An increasing number of practices are turning to telephone-first triage in an attempt to free up GP time.

A study published in the BMJ earlier this year found that asking patients to speak to a GP on the phone decreased the number of face-to-face consultations but increased the overall number of consultations by close to a third.





Readers' comments (6)

  • Wouldn’t trust these monkeys to organise a pi** up in A brewery,never mind fill my emergency appointments.

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  • Patients bend the truth and know what to say to get an urgent appointment, much thanks to google. I’m sure we’ve all had the 1 yr problem that’s suddenly urgent on the day, or ‘urgent’ because they’re going on holiday the next day. We have repeat offenders but it’s difficult to downgrade the urgency when they say the right words - cry wolf and all that....

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  • hard for patients to define urgent eg for rectal bleeding aged 50, when the realistic choice is between same-day and three weeks. Especially when the Dr's response at the three week appt turns out to be a 2 wk referral

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  • Pointless. Patients will say the buzz words to get that same day appointment

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  • We have a great receptionist team ('care navigators') and they will help most to a 'first touch to the right service'. GP or nurse telephone triage backs them up, no one who insists won't be offered that. BUT it is clinicians who book most of the same day face to face appointments.
    This works very well for us.

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  • We have been very disappointed with 111. They offer little triage value added. Their 'consultation' record is unclear and certainly not designed by or for clinicians. How will NHS24 be better?

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