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.