Receiving and Returning Phone Calls


An incoming telephone call is the principal method for initial and subsequent communication by a patient and most other persons in this practice. As such the telephone is recognised as a vital vehicle for creating positive first impression, displaying a caring, confident attitude and acting as a reassuring resource for our patients and all others.

Staff are aware of alternative modes of communication used by patients with a disability or language barrier. (See “Non English speaking background patients).

Staff should not argue with, interrupt or patronise callers. Courtesy should be shown to all callers and every call should be considered as important.

Staff are mindful of confidentiality and respect the patients right to privacy. Patient’s names are not openly stated over the telephone within earshot of other patients or visitors.

This practice prides itself on the high calibre of customer service we provide, especially in the area of patient security, confidentiality, and right to privacy, dignity and respect.

It is important for patients telephoning our practice to have the urgency of their needs determined promptly. Staff are to obtain adequate information from the patient to assess whether the call is an emergency before placing the call on hold.

Staff are trained initially, and on an ongoing basis, to recognise urgent medical matters and the procedures for obtaining urgent medical attention.   Reception staff have been informed of when calls should be put through to nursing or medical staff for clarification.

Staff are aware of each doctor’s policy on accepting or returning calls.

Patients at our practice are able to access a doctor by telephone to discuss their clinical care.

Messages taken for later follow-up are documented for the doctor’s action and attention in individual doctor’s message books.

Administration staff does not give treatment or advice over the telephone, unless having been instructed to do so by a doctor.

Results of tests are not given out unless cleared by a doctor.

Personal calls should be kept brief, mindful of engaging telephone lines and should where possible be made using Line 3 in the telephone system.

A phone answering message is maintained and activated to advise patients of how to access medical care outside normal opening hours.


  • Pick up the receiver within three rings and state : Good morning/afternoon, Longford Surgery, this is ………. how may I help you”
  • If on another line ask the caller if they would mind holding for a minute while you answer another call.
  • When answering the second call ascertain that it is not urgent then ask them to wait and return to the first caller.
  • Under no circumstances should the second caller be asked to hold the line without discussion as the matter may be urgent.
  • A problem deemed by the patient, or an apprehensive parent to be urgent should always be seen the same day if assessed to be reasonable. Chest pain, asthma or breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, earache, migraine, stroke or mini stroke, vomiting/diarrhoea in small children are all examples of problems that cannot be left to the next day. If in doubt always consult with a Registered Nurse or a doctor.
  • Never advise a patient to ring an ambulance, go to another doctor or emergency medicine department without speaking to a doctor in this practice first.
  • Do not leave any caller on hold for long periods, return to the call and reassure them that you have not forgotten them.
  • If a call involves seeking information that is not readily to hand offer to ring the caller back, this will alleviate the patients anxiety and prevent engaging the telephone lines for long periods of time.
  • All telephone messages including requests for prescriptions should record the patient’s name, date and time of request and who took the call.
  • If the call is about pathology or imaging results always try to do this from the back office, using a quiet voice, and avoid mentioning the patient’s name to minimise the possibility of being overheard.
  • Follow individual doctor’s policies regarding receiving and returning telephone calls.
  • Document all significant telephone contact including after-hours contacts with the name and contact number of the person calling, the date and time of the call, important facts concerning the patient’s condition, the advice or information given to the patient and details of any follow up calls or appointments offered to the patient.