• The impact of location of the uptake of telephone based healthcare

      Cook, Erica Jane; Randhawa, Gurch; Guppy, Andrew; Chater, Angel M.; Pang, Dong; Large, Shirley; University of Bedfordshire; Public Health England (2016-06-01)
      Telephone healthcare systems have been put forward as a key strategy to overcome geographical disadvantage, however, evidence has suggested that usage decreases with increasing rurality. This research aimed to identify geographical high and low areas of usage of NHS Direct, a leading telephone healthcare provider worldwide to determine if usage is influenced by rurality. National call data was collected (January, 2011) from the NHS Direct Clinical Assessment System for all 0845 4647 calls in England, UK (N=360,137). Data extracted for analysis included; unit postcode of patient, type of call, date of call, time of call and final disposition. Calls were mapped using GIS mapping software using full postcode, aggregated by population estimate by local authority to determine confidence intervals across two thresholds by call rate. Uptake rate Output Area Classification (OAC) group profiles was performed using the chi-square goodness of fit. The majority of calls were ‘symptomatic’ (N=280,055; 74.8%) i.e. calls that were triaged by an expert nurse, with the remaining 25.2% of calls health/ medicine information only (N=94,430). NHS Direct were able to manage through self-care advice and health information 43.5 of all calls made (N=99,367) with no onward referral needed. Geographical pattern of calls were highest for more urbanised areas with significant higher call usage found in larger cities. Lower observed usage was found in areas that are more rural of which were characterised by above average older populations. This was supported by geo-segmentation, which highlighted that rural and older communities had the lowest expected uptake rate. There is a variation of usage of NHS Direct relating to rurality, which suggests that this type of service has not been successful in reducing accessible barriers. However, geographical variations are likely to be influenced by age. There is a need for exploratory to determine the underlying factors that contribute to variation in uptake of these services particularly older people who reside in rural communities. This will have worldwide implications as to how telephone based healthcare is introduced.