Telephone Appointments FAQs




What has changed?

To ensure that patients have improved access to a doctor, we moved to a doctor call back system. This system is gradually being introduced throughout the country. When you call the surgery asking for an appointment with the doctor, or for the results of any tests that have been done, the Receptionist will arrange for the doctor to call you back in a short time. When the doctor calls you, you can talk through the problem together. The doctor will then advise you of the best course of action. You may be given your test results, given a prescription, advised to contact a different service where appropriate or, of course, given an appointment to see the doctor later that day, at a time to suit you. You can always request to see the doctor if you feel the telephone consultation is insufficient, but many people using this system have found that often the advice given on the telephone is sufficient.


Why has the system changed?

The conventional booking of appointments does not satisfy many patients. If routine pre-booked appointments are filled then a decision has to be made regarding the urgency of requests for on the day slots which rapidly become filled and in many cases by non-urgent problems. If we hold back too many appointments for the emergency work then the delay for routine appointments becomes greater. Historically patients who need to be seen urgently often had to be seen at the end of the day when little time was left to address their immediate needs. The new system has been found to have the following benefits. Patients and Receptionists no longer have to decide whether the need for an appointment is urgent or not. The doctor and patient decide. If someone is very poorly, they can be called back and seen without delay. On the other hand, if you speak to the doctor and it is decided you need a non-urgent face to face appointment you can still be seen the same day, or on another day if that is what you want. This has proven to be a better use of patient and staff time and increasingly comments are being received that the system is working.


What do I need to do?

You call the surgery at any time during surgery hours. You do not need to call at 8.30am in order to try to get a same day appointment. If your call is, for example, for test results, it is probably best to ring after 11am or in the afternoon when it is quieter. The Receptionist will take a few details and arrange for the doctor to call you back within an hour –sometimes longer if the doctor is very busy. You will be given a ‘time slot’ in which you will be telephoned. You can say when it will be convenient to be called. We have looked at episodes when delay has occurred will make every effort to ensure that our response is timely in order to keep to our side of the bargain.


What if I don’t want to be called on my home phone?

If you are at work, going to be out or would just prefer not to be called at home for some reason, you can give the Receptionist the number you would like to be called on; e.g. work or mobile. If you can only take calls at an exact specified time then we can make a special note for the doctor regarding this.


What if I have a hearing impairment or other difficulty that means that I cannot use the telephone?

If you come and tell the Reception staff, they will make a note of this and ensure that you can see the doctor without a telephone consultation.


I am not sure I can explain my problem properly over the telephone?

This need not be an issue of concern. If the doctor is unable to make a decision quickly on the telephone, a face to face consultation will be offered. This system gives the doctor some idea of what is needed and in some situations he may even suggest a longer appointment slot if the issue is complicated or multiple problems. The doctors are managing their workload to accommodate patients’ appropriately and are better equipped than a receptionist to do so.


How then does all this help patients?

It reduces the waiting time for you to talk to or see a doctor. This has been looked at in practices across the country that use this appointment system and it has shown a reduction in the number of patients who use out of hours services and Accident & Emergency departments to address their health concerns. It avoids wasting your time in coming to the surgery when you may not need to. It increases your safety by ensuring that you can talk to a doctor on the same day as you call.


What happens if I need to be seen again?

If the doctor feels you need to be seen again in a week or even a month an appointment may be made at the time you see the doctor. Quite frequently the need for a further appointment will depend upon how things change with time and so a further telephone call can negate the need for another visit to the surgery. Experience of the older appointment system shows that appointments made ahead are more likely to be missed. You do not need to worry that you won’t be able to get a follow up face to face consultation if it is necessary.


Who else could help me?

Please remember that general practice is not the only source of health advice. There are many other local health services available such as Pharmacists who have more training on medication advice, health visitors and midwives, local libraries, local self-help groups, etc. Please also pick up one of the “Is A&E the right place for you to go?” leaflets which gives advice on other services that could help you instead of Accident and Emergency.