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Introduction: The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic of 2020 had a major impact on NHS services. From the 23rd of March 2020, the Urology Department in Basingstoke initiated telephone-led consultation clinics
instead of face-to-face outpatient appointments, in accordance with U.K. guidance.
Objectives: To evaluate patient experience and satisfaction following the introduction of remote (telephone) consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients and methods: The first 200 remote patient appointments between the 30th of March 2020 and the 16th of April 2020 were sent a postal questionnaire (19 questions relating to their experience and level of satisfaction with the interaction). Telephone consultations were conducted by 6 consultants, 3 registrars, and 2 specialist nurses. The patients were not prewarned to expect a questionnaire after the remote ap-pointment. The associated cost saving resulting from a switch from face-to-face appointments to remote telephone appointments was also calculated.
Results: 100 out of the 200 patients responded within 1 month (response rate 50%). A total of 44% of the patients were new referrals, while 56% were follow-ups. Overall, the feedback was positive regarding the telephone consultation, with 88% rating the care received as excellent or very good. In addition, 90% would recommend a telephone consultation to family and friends. However, 35% would prefer in the future to have another telephone consultation rather than face-to-face consultation, with 46% preferring a face-to-face appointment in the future and 19% unsure. For new patients, the proportion wishing to have a face-to-face appointment, in the end, was unsurprisingly higher than it was for those undergoing a follow-up (39% vs. 7 %). In these 2 weeks, the cost reduction to the NHS from shifting from face-to-face consultation to telephone consultation was estimated to be £6500.
Conclusions: Telephone urology clinics are a satisfactory alternative to face-to-face appointments for many of our patients now and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. They are efficient, cost-effective, and feasible to undertake urological consultation and can be implemented successfully in selected patients. The feedback from this questionnaire would suggest that priority should be given to face-to-face appointments for new patients and for complex follow-up appointments. Telephone follow-up appointments, however, are a good approach for the majority of patients.
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