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Ulster Med J. 2010 May;79(2):76-9.

Post-operative telephone review is cost-effective and acceptable to patients.

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Department of Surgery, Mater Hospital, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Crumlin Road, Belfast BT14 6AB.



Patients undergoing selective minor emergency and elective procedures are followed up by a nurse-led structured telephone review six weeks post-operatively in our hospital. Our study objectives were to review patients' satisfaction, assess cost-effectiveness and compare our practice with other surgical units in Northern Ireland (NI).


Completed telephone follow-up forms were reviewed retrospectively for a three-year period and cost savings calculated. Fifty patients were contacted prospectively by telephone using a questionnaire to assess satisfaction of this follow-up. A postal questionnaire was sent to 68 general and vascular surgeons in NI, assessing individual preferences for patient follow-up.


A total of 1378 patients received a telephone review from September 2005 to September 2008. One thousand one hundred and seventy-seven (85.4%) were successfully contacted, while 201 (14.6%) did not respond despite multiple attempts. One hundred and forty-seven respondents (10.7%) required further outpatient follow-up, thereby saving 1231 outpatient reviews, equivalent to £41,509 per annum. Thirty-nine (78%) patients expected post-operative follow-up, with 29 (58%) expecting this in the outpatient department. However, all patients were satisfied with the nurse-led telephone review. Fifty-three (78%) consultants responded. Those who always, or occasionally, review patients post-operatively varies according to the operation performed, ranging from 2.2% appendicectomy patients to 40.0% for varicose vein surgery.


Current practice in NI varies, but a significant proportion of patients are not routinely reviewed. This study confirmed that patients expect post-operative follow-up. A nurse-led telephone review service is acceptable to patients, cost-effective and reduces the number of unnecessary outpatient reviews.


Telephone review; post-operative; telephone follow-up

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