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Call handlers for community nursing referrals: importance of collaborative working

02 March 2020
Volume 25 · Issue 3


Messages being left on an answerphone by service users or professionals have historically been considered the traditional communication methods in community nursing services. In May 2018, an NHS organisation successfully rolled out a service whereby call handlers process enquiries using clinical algorithms, clinically triaged by a community nurse, based on the electronic patient record system. This article describes how this project was designed and implemented, reflecting on the value of shared knowledge and skills for successful service development, and how the absence of these can be a barrier to service improvement projects.

Developing a service can be complicated, knowing where to begin can be bewildering and many practitioners lack the skill set to solely undertake improvement initiatives (Lees, 2010). This article will illustrate how a group of professionals worked together as a team and used improvement methodology in a project to radically change the operating of community nursing services. The author is a professional lead in district nursing who was sponsored by the Head of Service and Professional Head of Community Nursing to join a project team formed to design, create and implement a centralised referrals system for community nursing. This article concentrates on the system created by the author, although learning from participating in an improvement project team will be explored, focusing on the value of shared expertise for successful outcomes.

Over the years, the NHS organisation involved in this project had explored ideas around creating a centralised community nursing referrals system, although no attempts were made at a system-wide level. This changed following a serious incident, which concluded that the community nursing communications systems were impacting on the responsiveness of the service to patients needing care and, therefore, needed to be improved, as a matter of priority.

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