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Doubts raised over phone triage

PATIENTS who receive telephone consultations from their GP or a nurse are more likely to need care in the month after their phone call than those who see a doctor face-to-face, a new study suggests.

Experts found that people who requested a same-day appointment but were instead offered telephone triage from a GP were 33 per cent more likely to seek help in the 28 days after the phone call.

As demand for appointments to see family doctors has soared, telephone triage has become increasingly popular in general practice, the authors said. This means patients are called by a doctor or nurse who can either deal with the problem over the phone, or decide as and when a patient needs to be seen.

But researchers found that such consultations may not be the most efficient use of a doctor's time.

Their study, published in The Lancet, found that they did not reduce workload but just saw it "redistributed" from face-to-face consultations to telephone consultations.

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