During the COVID-19 outbreak, practices may decide to continue offering and promoting online booking of telephone appointments as a means of triage instead of or in addition to online consultations.

This guidance is designed to help practices to:

  • set up their GP system to make telephone appointments
  • reduce footfall in the practice
  • make best use of practice staff time

Setting up telephone appointments

  • Telephone appointments can continue to be made via apps and websites if the practice wants this to happen
  • The type of appointment can be set to ‘telephone’ by amending the system configuration according to the system supplier’s manual
  • All existing appointments, unless there is no other option, should be changed from face-to-face to telephone or online consultations and the patient notified accordingly.

Essential face-to-face appointments

Some nurse appointments can only take place face-to-face, for example a dressing change, childhood immunisations, etc. For such appointments, patients should be advised to phone the practice first so that arrival arrangements can be explained.

Keeping patients posted

To minimise anxiety to patients, practices should ensure information about how to book appointments and how to get advice from members of the practice team is made easy to access and easy to understand.

Patients should be reminded that initial appointments are not face-to-face. This could be done via text messaging or email, via the practice website, as well as by phone.

Benefits of online booking of telephone appointments during the COVID-19 outbreak

Continuing to make online appointments for telephone consultations:

  • protects staff and patients from infection
  • reduces pressure on phone lines into the practice
  • relieves pressure on the practice phone system
  • enables the practice to improve workflow

Clinical system configuration

Each practice’s system configuration is likely to be different, so please bear this in mind when using the suppliers’ guides to online appointments.

Links to supplier guidance


  • advise patients booking appointments online that these are telephone consultations and not face-to-face appointments
  • ask patients to provide a reason for their appointment
  • review the appointment reason and signpost to an appropriate service or team member, if required
  • make provision for some essential face-to-face appointments and publicise this information
  • provide clear, easy to follow information about online bookings on your website
  • keep some appointments for NHS 111 to continue making direct referrals.


  • do not turn off the ability for patients to book appointments online without ensuring information about how to make an appointment is available in an easy to find and easy to read form
  • do not turn off ordering of online prescriptions

Related Content

External Resources

Date Published Article Format Author(s)
Loomer Medical SystmOne configuration for telephone appointments Setup guide Loomer Medical
eGP Learning Quick Telephone Consultation Tips for GPs Online article Dr H Gandhi
GP-Training.net Telephone triage Online article GP-Training.net
GP-Training.net Telephone consultations Online article GP-Training.net