Aims In July 2014, we launched a paediatric phone line enabling general practitioners (GPs) to speak directly to a consultant paediatrician 7 days a week. The overall aim was to optimise patient care by facilitating communication between primary and secondary care. In this study, we evaluated the GPs’ opinions in order to determine whether this aim was achieved.
Methods A data collection proforma was completed for each phone call received. This included demographic details of the caller, the nature of the patient enquiry and the outcome of the phone call. Following a 13 month period, electronic questionnaires were sent to the GPs in order to evaluate their opinion of the service.
Results 698 calls were received from GPs in the first 13 months of service, with calls from 47% of the GP practices in our locality. Calls were received throughout the hours of service with peaks of activity between 1200–1400 and 1800–2200.
By utilising telephone advice, 143 paediatric emergency department (PED) attendances were prevented. In addition, 114 patients were appropriately referred to rapid-access clinic whereas they would otherwise have been directed to attend PED or general paediatric outpatients.
The feedback from service users was overwhelmingly positive: 89.6% reported a positive influence on their patient management as a result of the telephone conversation. One GP stated that “it often prevented A&E attendances and unnecessary outpatient referrals”. There were also significant secondary gains with 96.5% of the GPs reporting educational benefits obtained from the conversation with a consultant paediatrician.
Conclusion The GP phone-line has been phenomenally successful. It has helped strengthen professional relationships between primary and secondary care. One GP stated, “It improves the quality of care I provide for my paediatric patients” and this was our initial aim when establishing the service.
The future of acute paediatrics is moving towards delivering more care in the community, and in working together more collaboratively across our traditionally held boundaries. This phone line is a simple but highly effective means of promoting cross organisational working which benefits the patients we care for.
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