Telephone Triage and Consultation

Author: Sally-Anne Pygall
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This easy to read guide provides practical tools and techniques for conducting a telephone triage and consultation safely and efficiently, quality assurance of calls, and how to manage or minimise the risks.

The primary aim of this book is to provide an understanding of what is required when GPs, practice nurses, nurse practitioners, secondary care clinicians, healthcare helplines and out-of-hours workers are engaged in clinical telephone assessments (often referred to as telephone triage or telephone consultations) or anywhere that patients are assessed over the phone. The reader will learn real, practical tools and techniques to apply in their daily work for managing calls in busy environments, and will gain insight into identifying and avoiding hazards when carrying out telephone assessments.

Deliberately conversationalist in style, this guidebook addresses the preparation, underlying principles and stages in telephone triage and consultations from beginning to end, including when to conclude safely. Each chapter is dedicated to key areas to allow the reader to access precise information. The book argues that the primary purpose of a telephone assessment is not to diagnose, but to determine the need for further assessment and why focussing on diagnosing can be a risk to the patient. It also provides information on how to quality assure your calls, as well as the use of protocols in telephone calls.

Based on empirical evidence, the book draws heavily on the author’s own personal experience and knowledge of working in clinical telephone services, and the problems and benefits associated with this highly demanding and risk-laden area. Importantly, it seeks to address the caller’s or patient’s perspective, to ensure the clinician has a better understanding of how they can balance patient needs with workload demands and accessibility.

The book provides an understanding of the current models of healthcare delivery with the associated pressures on today’s clinicians, including the advent of more intense triage systems being implemented in general practice. It also looks at how the role of the non clinicians i.e. receptionists or call handlers, impacts on the workload for the clinician.

 Read a sample chapter



ISBN Number: 9780850844269

Number of pages: 142

Publisher: RCGP

Published: January 2017

View table of contents

• Telephone triage and consultation: their purpose, benefits and risks
• Communication skills
• Questioning techniques
• How to take a call
• Managing closure
• Common pitfalls
• Record keeping
• Clinical audit
• Protocols
• The total triage system
• Summary

Author Bio

Sally-Anne Pygall RGN MSc - Managing Director of Telelearning, which offers training and consulting services on telephone triage/consultation work in primary care and unscheduled care provision, including out-of-hours services and wherever health care and advice is provided over the phone. She has a background in primary care, quality assurance of telephone services, telephone triage nursing, and has worked in the NHS, the private sector and social enterprise organisations. She has developed and implemented clinical performance and audit systems on behalf of out-of-hours providers and for GPs, nurses, receptionists, care navigators and call handlers to support the delivery of telephone triage services in the UK and Australia.

Publisher reviews

‘Deserves a place in all practices’ - Dr Andrew Parsons, GP

‘The content is absolute GOLD’ - Dr Himanshu Gupta, GP


Primary audience
• GPs
• Practice nurses
• Nurse practitioners
• Healthcare helplines e.g. occupational health, rheumatoid arthritis, bowel and bladder services
• Out-of-hours primary care workers
• Practice managers

Secondary audience
• Practice receptionists
• Other care navigators and call handlers
• Secondary care
• Clinical Commissioning Groups


• Can be applied and adapted to any clinical area where patients are assessed over the phone – a growing feature of UK general practice.
• Concise chapters focus on how to deliver and improve telephone triage and consultations in healthcare settings.
• Based on the author’s own personal experience and knowledge of working in telephone services, and the problems and benefits associated with a highly demanding and risk-laden area.
• Easy to read and packed full of useful information set in the real world.
• Only book of its kind in the UK.
• Many clinicians do not receive specialist training in telephone triage and consultations – this book attempts to bridge the gap in their knowledge.

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