BACKGROUND: Primary care telephone consultations are increasingly used for patient triage, reviews, and providing clinical information. They are also a key postgraduate training component yet little is known about GP trainees' preparation for, or experiences and perceptions of, them.
AIM: To understand the experiences, perceptions, and training of GP trainees in conducting telephone consultations.
DESIGN & SETTING: A mixed-methods study was undertaken of North Central and East London (NCEL) GP trainees.
METHOD: A cross-sectional electronic survey of trainees was performed with subsequent semi-structured interviews. Survey data were analysed using descriptive statistics, and qualitative data using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: The survey response was 16% (n = 100/618), and 10 participated in semi-structured interviews. Trainees felt least confident with complicated telephone consulting, and there was a strong positive correlation between the percentage reporting having received training and their confidence (R2 = 0.71, P<0.0001). Positive experiences included managing workload and convenience. Negative experiences included complex encounters, communication barriers, and absence of examination. Trainees reported that training for telephone consultations needed strengthening, and that recently introduced audio-clinical observation tools (COTs) were useful. Positive correlations were found between the length of out-of-hours (OOH) but not in-hours training and the level of supervision or feedback received for telephone consultations.
CONCLUSION: This project sheds light on GP trainees' current experiences of telephone consultations and the need to enhance future training. The findings will inform a wider debate among stakeholders and postgraduate learners regarding training for telephone consultations, and potentially for other remote technologies.