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Phone Calls 'Do Not Lessen GP Pressure'

A Study Has Found Giving Medical Advice To Patients Via The Phone Does Not Necessarily Lessen The Amount Of Pressure Placed On GPs


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
Dealing with patient queries via phone call rather than carrying them out face-to-face is not necessarily an adequate measure with regard to lessening the amount of pressure placed on GPs in their job, according to a new report.

Analysis of the matter has been published in the Lancet, following an investigation by researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School. 

The study looked at how patients fared when their medical queries were answered via phone instead of with an actual appointment, as it is not just the amount of pressure GPs face that is affected by this system, but also potentially the safety of the public who may urgently need face-to-face consultations.

Such measures were originally introduced to help to reduce the level of pressure placed on doctors, but the results of this investigation suggest this has not been the case.

Speaking to BBC News, lead researcher of the study Professor John Campbell explained: "This is not the silver bullet to dealing with workload. Introducing it in some settings will be very useful, but it needs to be introduced with caution."

The investigators analysed the goings-on at 42 medical practices throughout the UK, finding that the number of patients a surgery had to deal with increased by 33 per cent due to doctors being required to call them back. This rose even further when they needed to speak to a nurse, with an increase of 48 per cent being recorded.

In addition, initial telephone conversations often led to a visit to the surgery in person being needed. Half of patients had to see their doctor face-to-face for a second time if their first consultation was also in person, but this rose to 75 per cent for those speaking to their GP over the phone and 80 per cent for people telephoning a nurse.

Explaining the pressure this placed on surgeries, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee Dr Richard Vautrey said: "A key problem is that general practice as a whole is under real pressure from soaring patient demand and falling funding, which often means that practices don't have enough GPs or nurses to operate these services in addition to managing their current workload."

If you've experienced negligent treatment due to rushed or over-worked GPs you might be entitled to compensation. Visit our GP Negligence Claims for more information.

Expert Opinion
New ways of providing care to patients, such as offering advice over the phone, are positive steps to improve the quality of care offered to all. However, the figures published in this report indicate that these services may not be having the desired effect.

“Patient care should always be the top priority and it is vital people are able to access the medical care they need. It is crucial that patients requiring immediate medical attention are still able to see a trained medical professional face-to-face.

“All too often we have seen cases where patients’ needs have been neglected, with devastating consequences, so it is vital GPs are available to see patients when required.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner

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