NHS GP practice Cornerstone Practice and HealthCare has implemented X-on Health’s cloud telephony system to ensure staff can handle high call volumes and patients can quickly access the service they need.

The general practice has four surgeries in Blackburn with Darwen and provides services for around 26,000 patients. The system first went live at its Bentham Road surgery, where it was able to iron out any issues.

Following this, it was rolled out to the Lambeth Street, Rhyddings and Shadsworth surgeries. In total, the deployment took less than three months.

Cornerstone Practice selected Surgery Connect from X-on Health, and as part of an accelerator programme spent time considering carefully the workflows that it needed to support. The accelerator programme was set up by NHS England to help practices make high-impact improvements.

Katie Stanton, practice manager, said: “Configuring the system is something that we really needed to think through.

“We spent a lot of time on that, and it was the most valuable thing that we did. We looked at the configuration of our existing call system, and at how we wanted things to work for us and our patients.”

As a result, the new call flow includes options that allow callers to leave the main queue, some of which take them to other technology-enabled services. The system deals with the highest volume of calls first and the low priority options – such as sales reps – at the end.

Cornerstone Practice configured its systems so that the first option for patients is to order a repeat prescription – a big part of its call volume.

This enables a large number of patients to be directed to the relevant team quickly. Picking up test results is another early option and includes a recorded message explaining key information to patients.

For instances where patients are requesting an appointment, the practice is also able to direct patients effectively. “We want to provide equity of access across all platforms and using the same terminology by phone and online is part of that. For this reason, we have used the pre-set terms used in our new online consultations system, PATCHS,” Stanton said.

“We ask if patients are getting in touch about a new or an existing condition. It’s taken some patient adjustment, but we wanted to get away from the idea that everything requires an appointment with a GP, which is often the expectation.

“We’re trying to get across that ‘you are contacting us with a need, and we will navigate you to the right service’. This may be an appointment with a GP or other healthcare professional, or we might direct you to a different service such as a pharmacy or dentist,” she explained.

Additionally, each practice site has its own phone number and contact point, while also having the ability to direct calls to other teams to manage staff shortages.

In March 2022 SCG acquired Storacall Technology Ltd, who traded as X-on. Last month SCG announced it was launching X-on Health, focusing on equipping primary care and GP surgeries with modern communication systems.