Is phone advice safe? What can a call cover?

Published: 13th November 2015

Is phone advice safe?

“Can you give advice on a patient if you don’t have their notes?” is a question we get asked a lot by both GPs and consultants. It is the classic tension between doing something quickly and doing something thoroughly. How can your advice on the phone be safe if you haven’t first seen a patient’s notes? Here’s what one of our consultant users said at a recent meeting: “Before we started giving advice over the phone, this was the biggest question we had. In reality, though, it’s not an issue. The GP has the patient notes (and often the patient) in front of them and I ask them for the information I need based on their description of the patient’s condition. If further diagnostic tests are needed I recommend the GP to arrange them, often in the community. To date, I have not had a single call through Consultant Connect where I have been unable to advise on a patient’s treatment because of insufficient information on that patient.”

What can a call cover? So, what sort of advice is being dispensed over the phone? We recently surveyed a group of consultant and GP users of Consultant Connect and asked respondents to “tell us about a phone call you have had”.

Here are some of the responses:

GPs “The call enabled me to deal with some abnormal results in an efficient manner. I knew which further tests to request and what to do with the results”

“The call decided about hospital admission for an elderly frail patient with haematemesis, who normally would have refused to go to hospital”

“Information on test results interpretation and when to refer” “Management of a patient with PAF. Patient was really pleased with outcome” “Investigating abnormal cortisol levels in obese woman whether to investigate further”

“The consultant confirmed my management strategy was correct and a community echo was arranged by me”

“Cardiology advice on palpitations and Endocrinology advice on thyroid disorder”

“Getting advice on medication”

“To decide how quickly the patient needs to be seen – routine, 2ww, urgent”

“Patient with a raised hormone level that was odd considering her clinical picture”


“Advised investigations and referral to appropriate services”

“Giving second opinion and reassurance to GP”

“GP was unclear about ECG abnormality, we discussed on phone and arranged that I would receive ECG by fax later that day”

“Provided advice on how to initiate anticonvulsant therapy”

“Mainly advice aiding a diagnosis”

If you would like more information on how Consultant Connect can implement a systematic telephone Advice & Guidance service in your area using your local hospital consultants, please call 01865 261467 or email

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