Making unloved hospital hotlines loved

Published: 2nd January 2020
Why does moving local speciality hotlines to Consultant Connect centralise the whole A&G process making things much easier for GPs and consultants?


We speak with a lot of areas across the UK about their current Advice and Guidance arrangements for GPs and most are readily embracing our Enhanced Advice & Guidance approach for their GPs. In fact, SE London STP (6 CCGs) recently conducted a report for NHS England that proved the use of Enhanced Advice & Guidance can double the use of Advice & Guidance.

Quite a few places also have telephone hotlines to local specialties. Some of these are informal, perhaps resulting from local consultants handing out cards with their mobile phone numbers on after training sessions. Others rely on hotline arrangements such as “on-call” or “hot-week” consultants. What does surprise us is how poorly used some of these hotlines are. For every time we hear about a much appreciated and well-used hotline, we hear about two others that are hardly being used with no good explanation as to why they aren’t being used.

In fact, when we started the project in SE London STP many specialties also had phone lines that were set up as part of a ‘Talk Service’.  This was confusing for GPs in that they had to call different numbers to contact different specialties. We have been slowly migrating the talk lines over to Consultant Connect. So why has moving these lines to Consultant Connect centralised the whole A&G process making things much easier for both primary and secondary care?

  • All the specialties can be accessed through calling one SINGLE number– the main reason GPs don’t use hotlines is that they often don’t know which specialties offer hotlines and they lose track of all the different phone numbers.
  • The Consultant Connect App acts as a highly useful directory listing all specialities available along with their opening times. 
  • Volumes of calls are tracked – giving CCGs, STPs and Trusts an accurate record of A&G activity from primary care.
  • All calls are recorded for medico-legal purposes – meaning your hotlines are automatically GDPR compliant. Calls also can be accessed upon request and saved to patient records.  Many of our customers use call recordings to inform training requirements and strategic decisions. 
  • Calls to Consultant Connect get answered – because Consultant Connect utilises the availability of groups of specialty consultants, rather than individuals, calling GPs have a better chance of getting through. The typical pickup rate of a specialty on Consultant Connect is around 90%, meaning that 9 out of 10 calls get answered. If you you need extra resource for answering calls, you could consider using the National Consultant Network – SE London STP are actively using it. 
  • Consultant Connect doesn’t go out of date – unlike directories, you simply dial Consultant Connect and choose your specialty, no chance of the number being out of service. Given that Advice & Guidance helps avoid unnecessary hospital referrals, hotlines are an important method of managing demand for stretched hospitals.


If you think your hotlines aren’t doing as well as they could be, reminding your GPs of their existence might be a very good way of keeping patients out of hospital. 

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