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Br J Gen Pract. 1998 Apr;48(429):1141-5.

Telephone triage of acute illness by a practice nurse in general practice: outcomes of care.



Telephone working is an increasingly important way of managing general practice workload, particularly out of hours. The role of telephone triage, however, in managing acute consultations during the day has not been adequately researched.


To determine the impact of telephone triage, conducted by a practice nurse, on the management of same day consultations in a general practice.


A general practice of 11,300 patients in South Tyneside collected prospective telephone and surgery consultation data over three months. Patient satisfaction, for those who had received only telephone advice, was measured using a postal questionnaire. Four outcomes were measured: changes in doctor and nurse workload; repeat consultations with the same problem; prescriptions issued; and patient satisfaction with the service.


In three months, 1263 consultations were recorded. Doctor workload fell by 54%, from 1522 to 664 consultations, compared with the previous three months. A total of 325 (26%) telephone requests to see the doctor were managed by the nurse on the telephone without them visiting the surgery. Also, 273 (21%) patients saw the nurse in the surgery, 565 (45%) saw the doctor in the surgery, and 99 (8%) saw the doctor and the nurse in the surgery. The response rate to the postal questionnaire was 192/271 (71%); 154 (88%) were satisfied with nurse telephone advice.


Telephone triage, by a practice nurse, of patients who wish to see the doctor on the same day, reduced doctor workload. This was a service that patients liked.

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