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Telephone announcements encouraging common cold self-management reduce demand for general practice appointments
  1. Robin Kerr1,
  2. Alan Grainger2,
  3. Carol Messer1,
  4. Hamish Kerr1
  1. 1 Teviot Medical Practice, Hawick, UK
  2. 2 Estates, NHS Borders, Melrose, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Robin Kerr, Teviot Medical Practice, Hawick TD9 9DT, UK; robinkerr{at}nhs.net

Abstract

Background Patients consulting with the common cold contribute to seasonal demand for general practice appointments. Seeing a community pharmacist or using self-management may have been more appropriate options. The study aimed to measure if the use of telephone announcements signposting appropriate patients with the common cold in the direction of community pharmacy or self-management reduced demand for general practice consultations.

Methods Patients telephoning a UK general practice to request an appointment between December 2017 and March 2018 heard announcements regarding management of the common cold. The percentage of callers choosing to continue to speak to a receptionist was compared with baseline data prior to the intervention. The mean waiting time to the third available routine general practice appointment during the intervention was compared with the previous year.

Results Routine calls continuing to reception reduced by 5.5 % (p<0.001) when the incidence of the common cold is at its highest and by 3.9% (p<0.001) throughout the intervention. The mean waiting time to the third available routine appointment reduced by 21%.

Conclusion This study has demonstrated that the use of telephone announcements signposting appropriate patients with the common cold in the direction of community pharmacy or self-management reduces calls to reception. This strongly infers that the telephone announcements reduce demand for general practice appointments and is supported by the reduced mean waiting time to the third available routine appointment. Implementation of this intervention could help general practitioners reduce seasonal demand in their own practices.

  • common cold
  • general practice
  • telephone
  • technology
  • self-management
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Footnotes

  • Contributors RK, AG, CM and HK planned the study. AG and CM collected the data. RK and HK reported the work. RK submitted the study and is responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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