Background: In October 2009, NHS County Durham and Darlington introduced a single point of access telephone number for people requiring out-of-hours health care. We evaluated users' views and experiences of the service.
Methods: We used a validated questionnaire adapted for use in telephone interviews, with open-ended questions added to allow people to express their views. Interviews were carried out with 493 people who had used the urgent care line between April and July 2010 of 1626 telephone calls made, a response rate of 30.3%. SPSS 17.0 was used to analyse the quantitative data and Framework analysis the qualitative data.
Results: We found that (i) regardless of age or gender people who used the call line were satisfied with the service they received, (ii) the call line advised most cases to go to an urgent care centre, (iii) people who received advice other than that expected were still satisfied with the service. Criticisms of the service related to confusion about accessing the service and which number callers should use.
Conclusions: We found very high levels of satisfaction across all groups for a single point of access telephone number for urgent care. Clear information about the service, in particular that it will involve telephone triage and that access to a doctor or nurse is not immediate, may also resolve some instances of dissatisfaction. It appears that the service is effective in directing people to places where they can be dealt with appropriately.