Login | Text size A A A | Text version

Our blog

Me and MedOCC – Medway’s out of hours call-handlers spill the beans
Post date: 11 Dec 2015

Leanda Welch and Lorna Malcolm are two of Medway Community Healthcare’s (MCH) MedOCC call-handlers. MedOCC (Medway on-call-care) is managed by MCH and has locations at both Medway Maritime Hospital and at MCH House in Gillingham Business Park. MedOCC call taker

Leanda and Lorna take, and process MedOCC calls to make sure patients get the right care. This involves so much more than just answering the phone, so they’ve shared some of their experience to help us understand what goes on at MedOCC behind the scenes.

Where does MedOCC fit in terms of patient care (e.g. between GP, care at home and A&E – why is MedOCC important)?

Lorna: MedOCC is the port of call if a patient’s GP surgery is closed (at lunch times and if the surgery doesn’t have capacity to visit a patient at home); or on occasion if a surgery hasrun out of appointments. Out of hours, NHS 111 acts as the callhandler for our service. The Emergency Department sends a lot of patients to MedOCC too who don’t need emergency help but have ailments that can be treated by a GP. We all work together to make sure patients get the right care, in the right place, and when they need it.

What do your roles entail?

Leanda: At MCH House our roles are mostly telephone-based as Lorna and I work daytime shifts. We take calls for district nurses - generally patient enquiries or requests for nurses to visit. We also coordinate rapid response for care packages, and book medication clinic appointments for patients as well as phlebotomy appointments through the ‘One Call’ service.We oversee the palliative care line too to make sure that our team who manages end of life care can obtain urgent pain relief for our patients, or send out a GP to them.This also operates out of hours.

Lorna and I also check the doctors’ bags and medication daily before the doctors’ cars go out on their evening visits.

At MedOCC at Medway Maritime Hospital and during out of hours, the role is more patient-faced and involves organising GPs as well as answering the phone for our twilight nurses and night nurse service. We also cover Swale out of hours.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Lorna: It can be a stressful role at times, especially during busy periods and if appointments are running behind – we always advise patients that they may have to wait, but it can be frustrating for all involved.We appreciate that when you or your loved one is unwell, waiting is the last thing you want to do! We do our best to explain the process and reasons why there might be a wait.

Describe your typical routine on a shift

Leanda: Each shift is different - typically we log on to answer calls and it can be continuous all day without even a cup of tea! Mornings are particularly busy as patients like to check to see if they have a nurse visiting. There may also be faxes from surgeries requesting appointments for a patient to be seen - which are booked at MedOCC at Medway Maritime Hospital during the day. Sometimes we also have to play detective, when the caller doesn't really know what they want or which service they require.

We have a driver on each shift to take doctors out on home visits if required, and to take deliveries to the hospital. At 6pm the out-of-hours staff arrive and log in ready to greet patients. At this time Lorna and I check the doctors’ bags. On quieter days there are admin tasks that need to be completed such as sending out prescriptions to pharmacies, or updating nurses’ lists and contact numbers.

At MedOCC at Medway Maritime Hospital it is generally busy at all times - never a dull moment! Our team books in patients, assists GPs with referral forms and keeps an eye on the sometimes very unwell patients in the waiting room.

How many people are on shift taking calls at any one time at MedOCC?

Lorna: There are usually four or five of us on each shift during the day between 7am and 7pm at each base. Out of hours there are normally seven staff working with at least two taking calls, a shift supervisor, two receptionists at MCH House and two at Medway Maritime Hospital.

Why should people call MedOCC?

Leanda: Never! They should call their GP surgery and listen to the instructions on the answerphone message for advice or call 111. Community nursing, phlebotomy, palliative, rapid response and ambulance calls are answered 24/7 for any query or request for assistance.

Do you ever get any calls from patients who don’t need urgent care? If so, what do you advise they do?

Lorna: Understandably when people feel unwell, they always think it’s urgent. All calls are treated the same, and enquiries are referred on to the relevant team of nurses or other service if required. If it is a medical need, we get it triaged or refer the patient back to their surgery if it’s open. If someone calls with any red flag symptoms we advise them to call 999.

Do you have a process/protocol for processing patients to make sure they get the right care?

Leanda: When we join the MedOCC team, we receive full training and that knowledge grows the longer you work here. We don't know everything but there is always someone at hand who will know the answer. We work hard to get to the bottom of every query – there are lots of experts at MCH who help us out and make sure we deliver excellent patient care.

Any tips from you (and/or your colleagues) for getting through the late shift?

Lorna: Coffee and plenty of chocolate and snacks!

What are your top three tips for making sure you reach the right service when you’re feeling unwell?

  • Always listen to the answerphone message at your own surgery – in most cases calling 111 will get you to the right service and care
  • You don't need antibiotics for a cold – generally you just need rest, fluids and paracetomol
  • Most pharmacies can deal with minor ailments and have pharmacists on hand to provide advice.
There are no comments for this blog.