Triage System – getting an appointment

For on the day appointments we operate a telephone triage system; you will be asked to leave a contact telephone number to be contacted by the triage team. The triage team will discuss your symptoms over the telephone and make a clinical assessment as to whether you need to be seen face to face.

Many problems can be resolved over the telephone, if it is decided that you need to see a doctor then that will be booked ahead for a mutually convenient time with your preferred doctor (subject to availability), or on the same day with the duty team , if that is the better option for you. We have doctors, triage nurse practitioners and paramedics operating our triage system.


Rationale for the triage system

Patient feedback tells us that most patients are very happy with the access they have to the doctors at Highcliffe Medical Centre, whether it is a face to face appointment or a telephone consultation. We are also aware that some patients may not understand the rationale behind the appointment system we offer here.

There are various models of appointment systems that are offered across GP Practices throughout the Country. There is no perfect model that suits all of the people all of the time. However we consider the triage model that we operate to be the most clinically focused and ensures the sickest patients are seen on the day.

The key question is whether there is a clinical need to be seen quickly, or alternatively it is not something that is a cause for concern. This is the rationale for the triage system, by which a member of the clinical team discusses your symptoms over the telephone to establish the urgency of your presenting symptoms.

In some instances, it is not a GP that is needed, it is an ambulance. If a non-emergency, but none the less more urgent an appointment will be offered on the same day.  In others, an appointment for a future date could be the most appropriate course of action. In many cases advice can be given to avoid a trip to the surgery altogether. However, when it is evident that you need to be seen by a doctor that day, it will be arranged.  The reasoning behind the triage system is to prioritise timely treatment, and to use the appointment capacity to see those patients in greatest clinical need.

The same logic applies to follow up investigations. For example, if one or more tests have been carried out, once the results are known, a clinical decision will be taken whether a face to face appointment or a telephone consultation is appropriate. It is not always possible to be followed up by the same clinician due to GP rotas, holidays etc.  At Highcliffe Medical Centre we operate as a clinical team and patient records are computerised, so if an urgent follow up is needed, another doctor can deal with it. Clearly, if time is not an issue and you would prefer to wait until a convenient appointment can be made with your usual doctor, this remains an option.

The pressures on the NHS are frequently covered in the media, and Highcliffe Medical Centre is not immune from then. Nevertheless the evidence indicates that the triage system is working successfully for us to identify the clinical priorities and give patients timely and appropriate treatment. We always have availability for urgent treatment, and on those occasions it is not considered necessary we offer advice & guidance. If you require any further information on our appointment system, or any other matter please feel free to contact the Practice Manager.

There are some circumstances where it is not appropriate to speak to a doctor before being seen, should you feel this is the case the reception team will help you access the most appropriate clinician for the presenting complaint.