Triage hotline not helping: study

New research has raised fresh questions about the value of the Federal Government’s $225 million telephone triage service, after finding it does not help patients make better judgements about whether to attend the ED.

The service, set up in 2006 and staffed by registered nurses, was touted as a way to ease pressure on overstretched EDs by directing non-emergency cases away from hospitals.

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found that about 22% of the patients advised by Healthdirect to go to the Royal Perth Hospital did not need to be there — about the same proportion as patients who referred themselves (26%).

Meanwhile, 90% of GP referrals were judged “appropriate attendances”, defined as patients who were admitted to hospital,