Primary Care News

General Practice Improvement Programme focuses on improving telephone journeys

NHS England, as part of its General Practice Improvement Programme, has shared a support offer to focus on improving telephone journeys in general practice.

Aiming to support practices and PCNs in choosing, purchasing and optimising the use of advanced cloud-based telephony, the guidance covers the functionality offered; the use of call data to make improvements with four key metrics outlined; aligning handling capacity with demand; making continuous improvements to telephone journeys; and scaling telephony.

The guidance notes some of the capabilities of cloud telephony, including call back and queue positioning; the ability to view data dashboards to support demand and capacity planning; providing equity of access across all channels as part an integrated care navigation model; and supporting remote working and scaling processes.

On procuring a solution, NHS England points practices and PCNs to the Advanced Telephony Better Purchasing framework. Here, the solutions meet a minimum core level of functionality inline with national standards, and are supported by “around £90m funding attached to the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care for purchasing and implementing advanced cloud-based telephony systems”.

Four key data metrics are highlighted in the guidance: abandoned and missed calls; call wait times (time taken to answer call); number of calls answered; and call length times. The document also notes data requirements to understand the number of call backs requested, call backs made, call times to answer, and as well showing an example of dashboards presenting this data.

The document focuses on optimising telephone journeys where it suggests using data to support staff rotas and identify peaks as well as introducing call taker scripts and setting up routing and flows and where appropriate online services. Here, the guide shares a “call tree” and example telephone script.

PCNs and at scale working are highlighted, with the guidance suggesting across practices alignment, shared operating processes and training, and shared call handling.

In September, NHS England published its 2023-2024 business plan with focus on access to primary care. It stated an ambition for practices to implement modern general practice access, with practices transitioning to digital telephony, ambitions for 75 percent of all adults in England to be registered on the NHS App by March 2024, and a commitment to improving “the digital infrastructure between general practice and community pharmacy to streamline referrals”.

In August, HTN covered the primary care recovery plan update, highlighting more than 1,000 practices have signed up for digital telephony.

The how to improve telephone journeys in general practice guidance is available on the FutureNHS platform as part of NHS England’s General Practice Improvement Programme, available here.