Around 140 GP staff are at the heart of a new scheme to support patients to access the most appropriate health or social service for their needs in the Fareham, Gosport and south east Hampshire areas.
Receptionists at GP practices have undertaken a ten-hour training programme to become ‘care navigators.’
The initiative – successfully trialled in other parts of the country – involves the care navigators directing patients to the right health professional
In other parts of England, it has freed up GPs and other healthcare professionals to spend more time with the patients who most need their help, advice and support.
Dr Barbara Rushton and Dr David Chilvers, the clinical leads for NHS South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Fareham and Gosport CCG, both fully endorse and support the scheme.
Dr Rushton said: “Care navigators are not replacements for GPs – or practice nurses, pharmacists, or any other healthcare professional working in primary care.
“If a patient really needs to see a GP, then they will be able to. Care navigation simply means helping people to get to the best person and place to receive timely care – this could be medical or in some cases identifying non-medical sources of help.
“We know that most patients want to see a GP for all of their health related issues, but sometimes they could be seen quicker by another service they could access themselves if they know about it.”
Dr Chilvers added: “Care navigators can let patients know about these services, and it will also free up valuable appointments for those who really need to see a GP. This is absolutely crucial to us at a time of unprecedented demand and workforce issues for GP services.
"All members of the GP practice team already play a pivotal role in delivering holistic patient care – and having receptionists fully trained to become care navigators can only benefit the practice – and more importantly our patients.
"Care navigators can offer patients the time that GPs often don't have – and help patients understand their way around what remains a complex health service.”
As part of their General Practice Forward View, NHS England made £45m available over five years to contribute towards the costs of GP practices training their staff to undertake enhanced roles in active signposting.
Sue Clarke, a nurse who is the CCG’s Head of Workforce and Education, said: “Care navigators are freeing up GP time. This initiative also makes more appropriate use of each member of staff’s skills and increases job satisfaction for receptionists.
“The CCGs have given ten hours of training, carried out over two days, to the 140 reception staff who have so far become care navigators - and we will complete the training for another 28 receptionists in July 2018. That will help us achieve the aim of having one care navigator for every 2,500 patients.”
Care navigators continue to receive ongoing training over and above their initial course to support them in developing their role and skills.
How it works
When a patient contacts the practice, the care navigator asks for a brief outline of the problem so they can identify the patient’s needs, working to an approved checklist so the care navigator isn’t put in a position where she/he has to make any decisions that they are not qualified for.
The care navigator will refer to information about services or clinical experts in the practice, other NHS providers and the wider care and support section and, where appropriate, they will direct the patient to those services – to ensure the patient gets the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
They may also redirect the caller to another service such as a dentist or community pharmacist if appropriate.