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Introduction to 2 New consultation types

Up to 2. New consultation types
June 15. 2016
Robert Varnam

What is this?

This set of innovations is about introducing new communication methods for some consultations, such as phone and email. Where clinically appropriate, these can improve continuity and convenience for the patient, and reduce clinical time per contact.

Benefits for patients

  • Greater convenience, often no longer requiring time off work/caring duties. 
  • Improves availability of appointments. 
  • More opportunities to build knowledge, skills and confidence for self care.

Benefits for practice

  • Shorter appointments (eg phone consultation average 50% shorter, 66% dealt with entirely on phone). 
  • More opportunities to support self care with e-consultations, text message follow-ups and group consultations.


2.1 Phone

Use of the telephone for consultations is growing rapidly in general practice. Some practices have been offering this kind of consultation for ten years or more, but interest has grown significantly since about 2012. From a starting point of treating phone contacts as brief triage encounters, practices are increasingly recognising the feasibility and value of fully addressing the patient’s need in a single phone contact where appropriate. Experienced consulters generally find phone consultations are half the length of face-to-face ones, and that approximately 75% of consultations can be fully concluded on the phone. This releases GP time, reducing waiting times for patients, and making it easier to offer better continuity and longer face-to-face appointments for patients who need it. Most practices implement phone consultations as part of other changes, for example the introduction of active signposting and redesign of systems to create more productive workflows, particularly with a focus on matching capacity with patterns of demand through the week.


Download a quick facts sheet about phone consultations

2.2 Online consultations

Using a mobile app or online portal, patients can contact the GP. This may be a follow-up or a new consultation. The e-consultation system may be largely passive, providing a means to pass on unstructured input from the patient, or include specific prompts in response to symptoms described. It may offer advice about self care and other sources of help, as well as the option to send information to the GP for a response.

  • More about online consultations

2.3 Text message

In addition to sending reminders, text messaging can be used for more interactive two-way communication between patients and their practice. Systems exist to help automate this, allowing for quite sophisticated packages of education, reminders and support self-care.

2.4 Group consultations

For patients with longterm conditions, group consultations provide an efficient approach to building knowledge and confidence in managing the condition, which includes a peer-led approach as well as expert input from professionals.

Download an evidence summary about group consultations

August 11. 2017
Griff Evans


In relation to Online Consultations I am reading that there should be a specification that the monies are used to deliver against.

does that specification exist?  if so, where is it hidden?

August 13. 2017
Robert Varnam

The main information about the online consultations fund is on NHS England's website at https://www.england.nhs.uk/gp/gpfv/redesign/gpdp/consultation-systems. More detailed information, including details of support for  procurement, implementation and marketing will be published when the Fund is launched later this year. There will be a lot more detail added to that section of the website, and a series of webinars will enable people to ask questions. 

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