Major expansion for Norwich Union healthcare's unique 24 hour GP helpline

Article date: 19 February 2001

Direct contact with a family doctor is now just a phone callaway, 24-hours a day, for all Norwich Union Healthcarecustomers.

The health insurer has teamed up with a new partner to launch amajor expansion in its unique round-the-clock GP Helplineservice.

The deal with experienced helpline company InfoGenie means thatthe Norwich Union Healthcare service - the first of its kind in theUK - will initially have the capacity to deal with 80,000 calls ayear from its 550,000 private medical insurance customers.

The 24-hour helpline is available to corporate as well asindividual customers, helping businesses to avoid unnecessarysickness absence.

All callers will have the choice of speaking to a GP aboutillness or to a nurse for general health information.

Customers can call the helpline as often as they want, givingthem added value from their PMI policy without having to claim.

GPs from a dedicated 20-strong team answer the calls routed tothem at any time of day or night, 365 days a year, assessing theneeds of each caller and dealing with them accordingly.

This swift access to advice from a doctor will mean:

  • Peace of mind for families
  • People who want more time to talk to a doctor will benefitfrom unlimited, unrushed consultations
  • Busy workers who don't want to waste time can establish if atrip to their GP is necessary before taking time off work

Tim Baker, commercial director of Norwich Union Healthcare,said: "Fast access to advice from a GP is a great benefit toeveryone, from parents worried about a sick child to older peoplewho want more time to discuss a health problem.

"It can prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor, saving time forboth patients and their NHS GPs, and helping to ensure that themaximum possible healthcare resources are concentrated on those whoneed them most."

All GP-routed calls to the 24-hour-helpline are answered by afully-qualified, specially telephone-trained GP who questions thepatient and uses their answers to assess which of the followingeight categories their call fits into:

  • Emergency (immediate ambulance call-out)
  • Urgent - seek immediate help at accident and emergency
  • Seek help from GP services on the same day
  • Seek help from GP services soon (within 48 hours)
  • Normal non-urgent appointment with GP
  • Self-care - patient given advice specific to theirsymptoms
  • Advice or information given to patient
  • Non-clinical enquiry

The 24-hour Helpline has been operating for two years, and thelessons learned from that have enabled the launch of the full-scaleimproved service in partnership with InfoGenie.

InfoGenie has offices in Berlin, Milan, Paris and Windsor andwas successfully launched in a public offering on the German NeuerMarkt in October 2000. The company specialises in supplyinghigh-quality helplines both to the general public and the corporatecustomer, enabling them to bring professional experts to theconsumer, or to the corporate's own customer base. Theirtechnological expertise enables answers to be delivered in manyforms, including 'phone, e-mail and the Internet.

Britta Schassan, founder of InfoGenie UK said: "We are delightedto work with Norwich Union on this project. Our unique 'virtual'structure enables us to connect highly qualified GPs from all overthe country to the caller, while ensuring absolute callerconfidentiality.

"This is radically different from the image of a call-centrebeing like a battery of hens, or a long and complicated series of'phone buttons to press. It adds an exciting new dimension to thehigh-quality service provided by Norwich Union Healthcare."

Media contact: Louise Zucchi, Norwich Union Press Office,08703 666860

Notes to Editors:

Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products to around 675,000 customers.It is one of the largest providers of income protection and privatemedical insurance in the UK.

InfoGenie was founded in 1995, and is Europe's leader in theprovision of high-level information helplines on topics as diverseas pets, horticulture, computer games, law, tax and medical advice.In the UK alone, over 400 contracted experts from all over thecountry supply advice on InfoGenie helplines. InfoGenie worksclosely with leading consumer magazines to provide expert advicelines for the general public, bringing easy access to high qualityprofessional advice.

CGU and Norwich Union merged on 30 May 2000 to create CGNU plc -the world's 6th largest insurer, the UK's largest insurance groupand one of the top-five life insurers in Europe with substantialpositions in other markets around the world.

CGNU's principal business activities are long-term savings,general insurance and asset management with worldwide premiumincome and retail investment sales of £26 billion and assets undermanagement of more than £200 billion.

The combined life and pensions, general insurance and retailfund businesses in the UK operate under the Norwich Union brand,while the institutional business operates under the Morley FundManagement brand.

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