How to... tackle phone calls



There should be watertight practice system for handling phone calls, with entries in a message book or an email sent to the relevant GP. Handle your messages and return calls after each surgery, documenting clinical contacts in the medical record with date and time. Ensure you know how to use the internal phone system, and how to pick up any voicemail messages.


Ask patients to make an appointment if they want to discuss a new problem at length.


Document failed attempts to call a patient back. Leave a non-specific voicemail message if possible. For example, 'This is Dr X returning your call at 1pm on Thursday 3 November. Please call again if you still need to speak to a doctor.'


If you think the problem sounded serious, try to call back again later. If you are still unable to get through, discuss it with colleagues and consider a home visit to make sure the patient is okay. You may need to involve the police if you cannot gain access.


Calls from concerned relatives can be difficult to manage. You must always protect a patient's confidentiality - explain that you cannot discuss a patient's records without their consent. You could suggest that the caller and patient make a joint appointment to see you or one of your colleagues.

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