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Warning over non-medical practice staff triaging patients

More than half of all practice managers use some form of triage system, a new survey has revealed.

The Campden Health Survey of 1,195 GPs, nurses and practice managers – entitled ‘On the line: Access to Primary Care – found that 56% of practice managers polled had used some kind of telephone triage.

However, it also revealed that around half of the staff that triaged calls received no training in telephone triage, while 13% of respondents reported that receptionists with no medical background were involved in providing triage.

Almost all the respondents who used triage – 95% – said that it was either ‘moderately’ or ‘extremely’ successful.

Fiona Dalziel, co-lead of the General Practice Foundation at the RCGP, said: ‘Anecdotally, receptionists are quite good at differentiating urgent from non-urgent situations.

‘However, they have had no medical training and are frequently not working to a decision-making protocol and so that leads to increased patient risk.’

The poll also showed that 44% of practices reported an increase in the number of patients that they were able to see and that practices showed a large variation in terms of the proportion of problems solved, with the lowest at 1% and the highest at around 60%.