Overnight calls in primary care can be handled by nurse telephone consultation service

November 25, 1999

Overnight calls in primary care: randomised controlled trial of management using nurse telephone consultation

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A nurse telephone consultation service can manage as high a proportion of primary care calls at night as it can during evenings and weekends, report a team of researchers in this week's BMJ. In their study conducted in Wiltshire, Felicity Thompson from the University of Southampton and colleagues also found that the telephone consultation service did not lead to the patients that were dealt with attending a daytime surgery in the subsequent three days.

Thompson et al conducted the study within a 55 member general practice co-operative serving 97,000 patients. The night nurse telephone consultation service ran over two two-week periods during the Autumn of 1997 from 11.15pm to 8am. They found that 59 per cent of calls were handled by the nurse alone.

However, over the same period as the study, the team also found that the evening and weekend service received over four times as many calls, in fewer hours as were received during the night. They therefore conclude that a nurse telephone consultation service operated at a co-operative level might therefore be uneconomic at night. The economies of scale offered by larger groups of practices or by the NHS Direct services, may prove beneficial, they say.

Dr Steve George, Director, University of Southampton Health Care Research Unit, Community Clinical Sciences Division, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton

Tel: 44-2830-796530
Fax: 44-2830-796529
Email: pluto@soton.ac.ukpluto@soton.ac.uk


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