The impact of out-of-area NHS consultants – eighteen months on

Published: 7th May 2020
Since November 2018, GPs in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale (HMR) have had access to immediate Phone Advice & Guidance from national teams of specialist consultants via Consultant Connect’s National Consultant Network (NCN). Find out how the project is doing 18 months on...

Since November 2018, GPs in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale (HMR) have had access to immediate Phone Advice & Guidance from national teams of NHS specialist consultants via Consultant Connect’s National Consultant Network (NCN).

In a recent interview conducted for the HSJ, Dr Chris Duffy, a GP in the area explained how the need to introduce the NCN came about:

“It originally came out of a lot of GPs bemoaning the primary and secondary care divide. We seemed to have lost the ability to just ring up our local consultant colleagues and have a quick chat about a patient. Barriers have appeared to prevent that happening – whether formal or informal they are still there.”

In fact, its local trust decided it was unable to offer Advice & Guidance by telephone. Despite these challenges, it was clear that giving GPs access to specialist advice, whether local consultants or national consultants, would help ensure appropriate paths for patients (whether by being able to keep the patient’s care in the community or admit the patient etc.)

When the NCN service was launched in HMR, GPs had access to Phone Advice & Guidance from national consultants in 7 specialties.


So, what has happened fifteen months on?


The service expanded and GPs now have access to Advice & Guidance from national consultants in 15 specialties. Specialties such as Teledermatology (via the Consultant Connect App), Rheumatology, Respiratory Medicine and Mental Health Medication Advice (for children, working age adults and older adults) were added in October 2019.

In January 2020, the operating hours for the NCN were extended, meaning that GPs are able to contact Elective Care specialties Monday to Friday between 9am-8pm.

Since January 2020, GPs in the area have also been able to use the Consultant Connect App to take IG secure and GDPR compliant photos of ECG and Echo Reports and share these with NHS out-of-area Cardiologists for Advice & Guidance. We’ve already had feedback from a GP user. GP Dr Samaei says:

“I used the 24hour ECG image sharing service. I got an answer within a few minutes. It was very convenient and prevented an unnecessary referral to secondary care. I would recommend using it as it makes both job and life easier for all parties.”

Find out more about safe sharing of ECGs and Echo Reports on the Consultant Connect App.


The following data is correct as of May 2020*:


(*please note the following data is based on A&G requests where outcomes were reported)

Telephone Advice & Guidance:

  • 72% of the calls resulted in admissions and referrals being avoided
  • Average connection time: 27 seconds
  • First time connection rate: 84%


  • 66% of teledermatology queries resulted in a hospital visit being avoided
  • The quickest response time has been less than 5 minutes


More information

If you have any questions about this project or how the National Consultant Network could be implemented in your area, mail or 01865261467.

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