Telephone triage can improve health care

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

I am disappointed at the tone of your article (‘Patient care risk as NI GPs to withdraw some services’, June 22) regarding the measures being proposed by the BMA GP committee.

Whilst I agree that patients should not suffer because of the government’s inaction on the crisis in the health service, I must disagree with Dr Anne McCloskey.

She suggests that telephone triage is somehow bad for patients. On the contrary telephone triage is one of a range of techniques which can dramatically increase access to health care and improve patient care. I am a GP in a small practice and we introduced telephone triage almost two years ago.

Everyone who calls our practice with a medical problem is telephoned by a doctor within a few hours. Many problems are safely and satisfactorily solved on the telephone.

This saves time and effort for both patients and doctors. If the patient and doctor agree that a face to face consultation is required, we can provide that on the same day or the next day.

The face to face consultation is flexible and can be as long as is required depending on the complexity of the problem. We have had very few complaints about this service and many compliments from patients.

I would contend that this is a vastly superior service to the traditional “one size fits all” ten minute face to face appointment which is unnecessary for many issues and much too short for complex or difficult problems.

Dr Colin Fitzpatrick, Comber Health Centre