Objective: An audit was carried out to evaluate the performance of a telephone consultancy service in adolescent psychiatry. Its objective was to answer the following questions: What does a telephone consultancy service actually do? Is it worth having? If so, how can we improve it? Method: Proforma data sheets on 69 consecutive calls to the Telephone Consultancy Service over a 16-month period were analysed. Results: Seventy-seven percent of enquirers used the service to request a referral or to ask about the appropriateness of referral but only 46% of enquiries were responded to in this way. Twenty-two percent of enquiries were given counselling or advice on how to proceed with the cases themselves. Almost 50% of calls came from the social work department and they enquired principally about conduct problems (27% of their calls) and sexual abuse victims (18% of their calls). General practitioners infrequently used the service (7 calls over a 16-month period). Conclusions: These findings appear to indicate that a telephone consultancy service can provide a counselling service and highlight community resources that may be overlooked by other agencies. However, infrequent use of the service by general practitioners suggests that there has been poor dissemination of information about the service – therefore it is important to bolster awareness of the service itself on a periodic basis amongst potential users.
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