Public Release: 

Nurses Can Safely Manage Half Of Out Of Hours Calls In Primary Care


(Safety and effectiveness of nurse telephone consultation in out of hours primary care: randomised controlled trial)

Increasing demands for out of hours care during the past two decades have placed the system of 24-hour care of patients by general practitioners under considerable strain. Recent developments in the delivery of primary medical care include the setting up of cooperatives of general practitioners and primary care emergency centres as well as giving advice to patients over the telephone.

In this week's BMJ Val Lattimer and colleagues from the Health Care Research Unit at the University of Southampton report on the safety and effectiveness of nurse telephone consultation in out of hours primary care. In their study involving 97,000 registered patients in Wiltshire they found that the new service halved the out of hours workload of general practitioners and was at least as safe as the existing system. Lattimer et al conclude that there are "clear opportunities for and potential benefits from integrating existing out of hours services with NHS Direct", a telephone consultation scheme currently being piloted in the UK.


Dr Steven George, Director, University of Southampton Heath Care Research Unit, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, c/o Royal College of Nursing Press Office


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