Telephone Triage for Frontline & Reception Staff

PMA (formerly Practice Managers Association)
Delivery Method: Virtual

General practice is embarking on a transformational journey. This includes a re-evaluation of the people, clinical resources, processes, deployment of resources and technology -not to mention the mechanisms by which engagement with patients is managed.

The key objective of Telephone Triage is to help patients access the right care at the earliest opportunity. This needs to be done in a way that provides them with flexibility, convenience, security, a sense of ownership and the stimulation to invest in their wellbeing.

Overview: General practice is embarking on a transformational journey – a journey that is re-evaluating the people – the clinical resources it has, the processes – how it deploys those resources and the technology – the mechanisms by which it manages the engagement with the patients.

The key objective of Telephone Triage is to help patients access the right care at the earliest opportunity – and in a way that provides them with flexibility, convenience, security, a sense of ownership and the stimulation to invest in their wellbeing. There are numerous drivers for this patient centred approach and outcomes will include a more streamlined workload for GPs, ACPs and other members of the team in carrying out front line triage. The aim to drive further practice efficiencies in terms of access to services and patient satisfaction. It will achieve this by releasing valuable clinical time.

Frontline staff will also actively manage requests for GP appointments and safely redirect inappropriate GP consultations to the most appropriate care providers.  

Objectives:  Telephone Triage is an essential patient engagement technique that will further develop the skills and career paths of non-clinical staff - frontline GP practice staff, who will move away from a passive role and have a more direct impact on patient health outcomes. The skills and abilities needed to undertake telephone triage and the necessary signposting are valuable in other new non-traditional roles such as Document Management, HCA and Care Navigation. After this web workshop, staff will be confident in handling the triage call, in advising and referring patients to care providers who work either within the practice team or to external care providers.

Telephone triage and signposting can present a challenging cultural shift for some teams and individual team members – and we will explore the mechanisms to help make the change as smooth as possible – some of this will build on the existing understanding, within the practice, of the need to change and a realisation of the benefits these changes can have.

Successful telephone triage and safe signposting is reliant on 3 core principles:

  1. Robust agreed protocols.
  2. A full commitment from the whole team to support staff in delivering the frontline services.
  3. Continuing audit of activity and outcomes including complaints and significant or serious incidents.

Training Recommendations, all frontline staff wishing to be considered for telephone triage:

  • Should be Primary care staff and understand the course outcomes.
  • Should attend the full session of Telephone Triage training and understand that their work may be audited and monitored back in the practice.
  • Practices should appoint a Clinical Active Signposting Champion and commit to supporting the frontline staff attending the course.
  • Practices should understand that implementation must be continually monitored, audited and significant or critical events reported to appropriate bodies.

The PMA Telephone triage workshop has been created with an experienced practice team including Clinicians – practice nurses and experienced Practice Manager facilitators.

Learning outcomes: 

  • Realise the impetus
  • Promote the benefits to patients
  • Work as a team with all practice staff
  • Keep patients and staff safe
  • Understand clinical and non-clinical triage differences
  • Gain the skills and confidence in triage
  • Incorporate care navigation and signposting
  • Develop effective communication strategies
  • Engage in processes for improving systems
  • Be involved in implementation and development
  • Help you formulate a ‘plan of action’ for your role


Welcome & Introductions

Introduction to Telephone Triage

This session will introduce why Telephone Triage is a recognised tool to meet demand on clinical time and how it can increase access. Discussion will explore the benefits, risks and limits of the approach.

  • Definition of Triage
  • The purpose of triage, why do we need it - Right person, in the right place at the right time
  • Use of software
  • Opening a call - introduction and confirming callers basic demographics and/or consent to speak to a relative, friend or carer
  • Communication - Open questions
  • Ruling out red flags
  • History taking
  • Triage streams - Book-On-Day, Routine GP, ACP, GPN, HCSW appointments, etc.
  • Clinical Appointment system - Allocation of slots, appointment length, red slots / urgent, etc.
  • Confirm the triage outcome with the patient

How are you feeling?

  • Thoughts from a patient’s perspective
  • Thoughts from a GP practice staff perspective

How will the Receptionists role change with Telephone Triage and Active Signposting

Sources of help receptionists will refer patients to, including: 

  • ARRS roles
  • Other Healthcare professionals & services
  • How to assess urgency and prioritise referrals
  • How to deal with a red flag issue

Clinical Perspective

Telephone Triage from a clinical perspective presented by a clinician with lived in experience in setting up, updating and implementing the system in practice.

Receptionist Perspective

Telephone Triage from a frontline perspective presented by a receptionist with lived in experience across multiple practices in assessing demand and prioritising need for appointments to deliver excellent patient care.

Practical exercises

There will be interactive exercises throughout the session that will require the attendees to think about a situation that they have previously encountered and to think about how they deal with it and what they would do differently.

This will be based on typical scenarios found in GP Practices and will be an opportunity for participants to develop new techniques to deal with enhanced patient interactions. Emphasis will be on developing confident communication skills.

Q&A - Summary


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