Posted by Amanda Crawford at 16/07/2018 11:10:08
GP receptionists and administrative staff across west Kent have trained to become care navigators so they can help patients get the support they need, first time.
Now, when a patient contacts their GP practice, the qualified care navigator will ask if they are happy to be asked some simple questions to make sure they see the right person for their needs.
If it turns out the patient wants to lose weight, stop smoking, or start counselling, for instance, they will be given contact details for the service that can help them – saving their time and energy, and freeing up a GP appointment which can be used by someone else.
Other potential options for patients include pharmacists, support for people living with mental health problems, and support for older people or carers, as well as different members of the practice team.
If people prefer not to give any details about why they want to see a GP, or prefer to speak to a GP even when advised that someone else might be better able to help, they will still be able to do so.
Dr Becky Prince, GP at Snodland Medical Practice: “More people are coming to their GP for care than ever before, which can mean longer waits for appointments. However, GPs are not always the best person to help with some of the problems patients raise at appointments.
“By training our reception staff, the first point of contact at the practice for many, to signpost patients to the people who can help them best, we are hoping to reduce the amount of time it takes for them to receive the right care and keep GP appointments free for those who really need them.”
The NHS worked with social care, district and borough councils and voluntary sector groups in west Kent to design the training and information that care navigators received. It helps them understand the services available to support patients’ different needs, including helping them to prevent illness by leading a healthier lifestyle. Care navigation has been successful in other parts of the country and NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has worked very closely with West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing, which successfully pioneered the approach. Practice staff in Wakefield gave almost 25,000 patients details for the most appropriate services and saved more than 2,700 hours in GP time across the area in just one year.