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Home-working nurses keep patients from hospital


NHS Direct nurses who work from home can keep patients out of hospital and GP surgeries as a result of their telephone consultations.

In a pilot scheme, nurses from NHS Direct’s Plymouth centre were asked to work from home after the building’s lease expired. They said they were able to provide treatment advice and keep patients away from hospitals or GP surgeries for more than 80% of calls, compared with around 60% when operating from the call centre.

NHS Direct has a target of 60% or fewer telephone calls resulting in onward referral.

The home-working nurses also reported spending 10% longer on patient calls, and dealing with 25% more callers per hour.

NHS Direct is now recruiting 100 new nurses to work from home following the experiment.

NHS Direct’s deputy chief nurse Patricia Hamilton said that nurses who talk to patients while at home were better able to focus on their conversations, had more time with patients, and were less distracted.

“A call centre with 15 or 20 people all talking at one time can be distracting,” she said.

“Working from home allows nurses to focus solely on one patient at any one time”.

NHS Direct’s own survey showed that 85% of its nurses would consider working from home, but Ms Hamilton said it did not intend to offer only home-working for its 1,300 nurses.


Readers' comments (4)

  • The only problem with this pilot is that the computer and telephone technology temperamental. While this is containable in the short term, longer term solutions need to be found and implemented

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  • what is Ms. Hamiltons' problem? The job entails talking to patient's on the phone. If this can be done more efficiently at home, and their own experiment shows it can, I think it is something to be rolled out further. I have wondered why this is not the case before, and can think of no reason why not, can anyone else?

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  • I currently work at NHSDirect and would welcome working from home, the environment I currently work in can be noisy, too warm or too cold, which is not a comfortable environment.
    I for one would be able to offer more hours if it meant working from home, therefore enhancing the service.

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  • I'm an ex Nurse Advisor for NHS Direct.
    I was made redundant as my centre was closing; it was too expensive to run.
    I had worked for NHS a number of years and received a large redundancy package.

    Working from home was not an option at the time, but I would have considered it, as a short term measure.
    I returned to the NHS and work from home occasionally, with brilliant internet and phone connections, so it is feasible.

    Working with other nurses in the same room was an asset, I could always call upon a paediatric nurse or midwife, if my clinical knowledge was insufficient and the software not suitable.
    That support and guidance was invaluable to me.

    The call centre environment is not ideal, but there are methods of reducing sound and encouraging a more comfortable and client centred work station (headphones and sound boards).

    I think NHS Direct do a marvelous job, where else in the world could you stay in the comfort of your own home and get timely, appropriate, professional advice?

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