Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Provide out-of-hours care to patients yourself

If you really want to guarantee your out-of-hours care is top-notch, take personal responsibility for it or run your own rota of GPs, suggests Dr Susan Taylor

If you really want to guarantee your out-of-hours care is top-notch, take personal responsibility for it or run your own rota of GPs, suggests Dr Susan Taylor

As a GP in the remote Highlands of Scotland, I still provide out-of-hours care to my patients and run an out-of-hours rota.

Our rota's workload is light, but the responsibility is onerous because of the practice's isolated nature. Ambulance cover is 45 minutes away, and the nearest hospital more than an hour's drive. Calls are triaged by NHS 24, which contacts the duty doctor.

In running an out-of-hours rota, I have found the following helpful:

• Plan early, with a single point of contact if there are changes. This is particularly important if the duty doctor is required to escort a patient to hospital.

• Ensure you have at least two contact numbers for each GP. One should be a landline, and in our case sometimes two mobile numbers are required because of patchy mobile phone coverage.

• Use special notes for patients who have difficulty using telephone triage – the very elderly, psychiatric patients and those with certain disabilities. These should be provided to the phone triage service and advise call-handlers to contact the duty doctor directly. Review these notes regularly.

• Give patients whom you anticipate may need care – such as the terminally ill – direct contact numbers. I provide the local coastguard with our rota because of our high number of diving-related incidents.

• Advise patients how to access their GP out-of-hours service.

• Feed back to the phone service if you feel patients have been triaged wrongly.

• Have a vehicle location system in cars to allow ambulance services to find you quickly.

Using triage systems involves more planning than being contacted directly, but does give back-up and safety – at least someone knows where you are. It also means you do not have distressed patients on the phone in the middle of the night.

Dr Susan Taylor is a GP in Morvern, Argyll

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say