Supporting patients to see the right person first

As part of ongoing investment in primary care, local NHS organisations are piloting a new scheme in some practices which will improve access to health care for patients whilst also reducing pressures on GPs.

Many common problems seen at a GP practice can be dealt with better by other services and many of these can be accessed without a referral from a doctor first. Community pharmacists can help with tummy troubles, coughs and colds and even offer medication reviews; local optometrists can offer assessment and treatment of common eye problems; and the dentist is best placed to treat wisdom teeth woes.

Reception staff at participating practices within the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford and Hastings and Rother area are receiving specialist training in order to signpost patients to the most appropriate service for their need. Armed with the latest information on a range of services both within the practice and outside in the community, care navigators – as they are more formally known – will be able to support and guide patients to ensure they are seen by the right healthcare professional first time.

The ever-increasing range of health and care services on offer can be confusing for patients, meaning they automatically book in with their GP in the first instance. This leads to GPs spending a lot of time with patients who could have been helped better, and more quickly, elsewhere and having less time to see those patients who really need their help.

When a patient calls in or visits a participating practice to book an appointment, the care navigator will ask for a brief description of the problem so that they can identify the patient’s need. Where appropriate, patients may be directed to other services in the practice, other NHS providers or the wider care and support sector.

Of course, GP appointments will still be available for anybody who wants one and nobody is obliged to answer any questions but, by doing so, it will ensure that those people who really need to see a GP can see them as soon as possible.

Former GP Dr Lindsay Hadley, Clinical Workforce Lead for NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Hastings and Rother CCG, said: “The NHS is committed to making sure everyone has access to a GP when they need one, whether that is in person or over the phone. As a former GP in East Sussex, I really believe that the care navigation model will improve local people’s experience of primary care and help to relieve some of the strain on services.

“Care navigation should be welcomed and should not be seen as a barrier to healthcare. This is all about giving people access to the information they need and empowering them to make the best choices about their own health.”

Care navigation will support practices and patients to make the best use of valuable NHS resources and support local people to get the right care, first time.

Click here to read more about Right Person First.

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