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Tele-First: telephone triage in general practice - Version 1

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    Tele-First: telephone triage as an alternative to face to face contact in general practice.



  • Contact name

    Martin Roland

  • Contact email

  • Sponsor organisation

    NHS Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CCG

  • Identifier

    L01437, R & D Office, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CCG

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    2 years, 5 months, 28 days

  • Research summary

    Recently, some GP practices have adopted an innovative approach to managing patients’ requests to see a doctor. Patients who ask for a face-to-face appointment are being asked to speak to a doctor on the phone first. The doctor then decides whether and when the patient needs to be seen in surgery, or whether the issue can be dealt with by phone, an approach known as ‘telephone triage’.

    Commercial companies report that many issues for which patients seek GP appointments can be successfully dealt with over the phone, reducing demand for appointments and leading to shorter waiting times. Other reported benefits include patients being able to see their doctor of choice more easily and a better overall experience for patients. It is also believed that this approach could reduce the number of patients visiting A&E and requiring emergency admissions to hospital, by improving access to a GP. Support for GP practices adopting telephone triage is being offered by two commercial companies and the approach is being promoted in NHS England literature, but there is a need for independent research to better understand its impact on staff and patients and to evaluate whether it is feasible and cost effective. In this study, researchers at RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge, (with funding from the National Institute of Health Research) will work together with the two commercial providers to evaluate the impact of the scheme.

    The study will run for two and a half years, from September 2014 to February 2017 and will involve the collection and analysis of data from a variety of sources: 1) existing data (on patient experience, hospital attendance and admissions,GP consultations, costs); 2) surveys (of patients on their experience and of practice managers on telephone triage use/costs); 3) interviews (with 32 GPs and 32 patients at 8 practices).

  • REC name

    West of Scotland REC 5

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    7 May 2015

  • REC opinion

    Favourable Opinion