Making the Most Out of a Telephone Triage Consultation


  1. Put your phone ringer on loud and pick it up when an unknown number rings. If we need to ring more than once it wastes valuable time. We will only try to call you twice.
  1. Don’t be offended if we start by checking your name and other details before revealing who we are. This is to protect your confidentiality and prevent mistakes.
  1. Ideally take some time to think about the symptoms you are calling about. Maybe write down notes. When did they start, what patterns have you spotted, what else is changing about your body?
  1. We may ask you about how your breathing has changed, your breathing rate (the number of normal breaths in a minute), your heart rate (the number of heart beats in a minute) and your temperature and oxygen saturations (if you have devices to measure these). Don’t worry if you haven’t got these.
  1. Tell us what you are hoping for and what you are worried about. Don’t worry: this isn’t rude! If you have several things you want to talk about: tell us at the beginning. We may need to politely say that we can’t deal with all the issues but at least this means we can help you prioritise the important problems.
  1. Tell us if you don’t understand something we’ve said or aren’t clear on the plan. It’s actually really helpful if you write down some notes as we go along and then repeat the plan back to us. Most people only remember 30% of what a doctor says: don’t worry - your memory isn’t failing you - that’s just normal!


At the end of most consultations we do something called safety netting. This is planning for what to do if things get worse and helps you know the “red flags” or warning signs to look out for. It might sound scary sometimes, because we often are describing the worst case scenario, not what we think is most likely to happen.