Why, How and When GP Surgeries Should Use Professional Voicemail

GP Professional Voicemail
Picture of Derek O'Carroll

Derek O'Carroll

Sales Director

The voicemail, previously known as an answerphone machine, was developed in the 1930s and was widely adopted by businesses in the 1980s. It’s still a popular feature of phone systems, but today it’s a little different! It has been improved to deliver more value to businesses and make the customer experience better. What are these drastic improvements and how can GP surgeries take advantage of professional voicemail to increase their success? Let’s find out!

What is a Professional Voicemail?

A professional voicemail is an automated answering service that meets the following requirements:

  • The message communicates meaningful and helpful information about your surgery.
  • The message sounds perfect and creates a positive impression of your GP surgery.
  • The length of ringing before the message is played (and the message itself) is automatically adaptable for different times, days and purposes.
  • Voicemail messages trigger an instant notification (on the handset, PC, or smartphone app) to the GP surgery and can be accessed and listened to easily and instantly from anywhere in the world.
  • The voicemail system should (if wanted) give GP surgeries the option for patients to “press 1 to be connected to the emergency out of hours service” if one is offered by your surgery.

Top 6 Reasons why Professional Voicemail is Important for GP Surgeries

  1. It provides an excellent service to your customers, making information about your establishment accessible during busy periods.  
  2. It enables seamless access for your customers to create opportunities for bookings.
  3. The messages you create can answer your most commonly asked questions. This frees up staff’s valuable time, not having to answer the same questions.
  4. A well-thought-out voicemail message gives you the opportunity to promote future events and keep interest high.
  5. It can create a positive and professional impression in your customer’s mind.
  6. It’s the perfect opportunity to outshine other restaurants in your area that don’t have professional voicemail and provide a better caller experience.


In this section we’ll look at the different features professional voicemail offers medical practices and discuss the best ways to use them.

How Many Different Messages do we Need?

Is one message for any time of the day enough? Probably not. Let’s look at why.

  • By only having one message which plays both when you’re open and closed, your message will not be specific enough to deliver the correct communication to your patients. The message will also be tediously long.
  • Two messages usually hits the spot. One message for when you’re open but can’t answer – called an OPEN VOICEMAIL MESSAGE, plus another message for when you’re closed – called a CLOSED VOICEMAIL MESSAGE.

This way you can tailor the message to deliver useful, relevant information to your patients (it’s worth noting that modern Yo Telecom Phone Systems automatically switch between open and closed voicemail messages depending on the time and day of the week – so your patients always hear the correct message).

How do You Communicate a Meaningful and Useful Message to Patients?

The first thing you should find out is what do your patients want from a voicemail? Here are some things patients said they want from their GP Surgery’s voicemail:

  • To know they’ve called who they intended to.
  • The reason why the call wasn’t answered.
  • When they can speak to you (opening hours).
  • What alternative methods of communication are available.
  • What to do if they have an emergency.
  • When their call will be returned if they leave a message.
  • Guidance on what they should do to speak to you as quickly as possible.

Don’t try to fit all of those points into one message, otherwise, it will be too long. Instead, decide which points are most important for different times of the day and create a message around what is important to you and more importantly your patients. With the above information, you can start to tailor a meaningful message for your patients (or if you switch to Yo Telecom our talented script writers will do this for you).

Here are two examples of the types of message we can create for you:


“Thank you for calling [name of your GP surgery]. We’re sorry we can’t take your call. We are open, but currently busy on the line helping other patients.

We aim to return all calls within one working hour, so please leave us a message with your name and number and we’ll be in touch shortly.”


“Thank you for calling [name of your GP surgery]. We’re sorry we can’t take your call right now, we are currently closed. Our opening hours are [insert opening hours].

If you are in need of an emergency out of hours appointment, we can help. We now offer appointments 24-7, 365 days a year. To be connected to the out of hours doctor please press 1 now. If you have a medical emergency please call 999.”

Will Returning Calls Promptly Lead to Happier Patients?

To be perfectly honest with you, yes. But why? Professor James Oldroyd of MIT discovered that if you call back within 5 minutes of a patient’s enquiry, you are 100 times more likely to reach the patient as opposed to calling back after 30 minutes. You can’t argue with the facts! If you miss a call and take too long to call back, that patient will start to lose faith and trust in your GP surgery and might start to look into registering at a new one – resulting in a negative reputation for your surgery.

Let’s think of a scenario;

A patient leaves you a voicemail message on Monday morning. They have been trying to book an appointment but all the lines are engaged. But you have a Yo Telecom phone system that emails you as soon as you receive a voicemail. So you call the patient right away. Guess what happens next? You exceed that patient’s expectations on the first interaction with them. Which will stick in their mind. You don’t just say you offer great service, but you prove to this caller you offer great service. Pretty smart, eh?

Should we Give Patients the Option to Speak to us Directly out of Hours?

If you offer an out-of-hours emergency service, you want to make it easy for patients to contact you. If you don’t offer an out of hours emergency service you may want to consider it for the following reasons:

  • It’s extremely valuable for both patients and your surgery.
  • It differentiates your practice from the competition.
  • It can be a good (and sometimes untapped) source of new patients.
  • You can charge higher prices for emergency work.
  • Emergency medical treatment improves communities and lives in times of need.

However, most surgery owners and managers do not want patients to have their mobile numbers (even if they offer out of hours services), which we understand. As much as you want to help your patients, you don’t want wake-up calls left right and centre on your days off.

So what is the solution for this?

Time-specific voicemail messages that enable patients to press 1 to be connected to you and you chose the hours that the message plays (the hours you’re happy to provide out of hours emergency appointments). You may want that message to switch off at 9:30 pm, or maybe not, it’s up to you and what you feel will suit the needs of your patients. Whatever suits you, the Yo Telecom Phone System is flexible.

A professional voicemail has many benefits for both patients and GP surgeries. We suggest booking a free demonstration if our phone systems to find out more about how professional voicemail can help you achieve your goals… Call us on 02382 146115 to get started.

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