This study sought to gain a national picture of the provision of telephone advice using a postal survey of senior nurses from accident and emergency (A&E) and minor injury units (MIUs). In all, 268/313 (85%) of hospitals/units responded. The average number of calls reported as received per day was 15.5 (median 12; quartiles 6, 20) for weekdays and 21.0 (median 17; quartiles 10, 29) for weekends. Most (89%) viewed the provision of telephone advice as an important component of their work, but few units offered staff training for this role or had implemented protocols or guidelines. Only 5.4% units included the number of calls received in their department in their workload figures, but 91.9% felt that they should be. Extrapolation of the data from this study to all 313 A&E and MIUs in the UK suggests that just under two million calls for telephone advice are currently made to units each year. Recognition and formalization of this aspect of work is likely to be of increasing importance given the constraints on services and the need to manage demand effectively. Future integration of A&E telephone advice calls with NHS Direct should be considered as a means of managing demand and avoiding duplication of service provision.
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