GP appointments could be booked via central call centre

Patients could be forced to make doctors’ appointments through remote call centres under an efficiency drive to save the NHS £600 million.
GP appointments could be booked via central call centreA report commissioned by the Department of Health says GPs’ administrative support teams should be radically altered to cut costs.

The plan would involve centralising appointment bookings through a national call centre, clearing surgeries of thousands of staff.

However, doctors and surgery staff say the proposal is “flawed”.

Unison, the public sector trade union, said call centres could not provide the “very personal service” that patients needed.

The report by the NHS Confederation’s Foundation Trust Network looks at ways back office functions could be streamlined.

It says the message to all NHS bodies is that they must “simplify, standardise and share” to save money.

The NHS is “highly fragmented”, with a total of £2.8 billion spent on back office functions.

The trust, headed by Tony Spotswood, chief executive of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals, recommends: “There are substantial efficiency gains to be achieved through transforming GP back office functions, such as the potential to move towards regional and national GP appointment centres.”

A Unison spokesman said surgery staff not only made appointments.

He said: “A call centre cannot begin to do the job these staff do.”

Doctors and their support staff were more forthright.

“Even your average alien would consider this hilarious stupidity,” said Dr David Iles from Southampton.

The Department of Health has distanced itself from the proposal. A spokesman said there were “no plans” for a national call centre.


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