An information campaign to encourage patients to access help from different health professionals at surgeries – beyond their GP – was launched yesterday in England by the NHS.
NHS England (NHSE) has said its aim is to explain the roles of the wider general practice team, such as pharmacists, mental health practitioners, paramedics, physios, and social prescribers and help patients learn about the support they can provide without needing to see a GP first.
A new survey has shown that public awareness of the expanded GP practice team is low, it said. For example, one in three (36%) people in England are unaware of the different options available to them at their GP practice. And more than two in three people surveyed said they were happy to receive care from another health worker, recognising they didn’t always need to see a GP.
In addition, NHSE said, while record numbers of people are seeking support from their family doctors one in five GP appointments are for non-medical reasons such as loneliness or seeking advice on housing or debts.
Dr Amanda Doyle, national director for primary care and community services, at NHSE said GP practice teams are treating half a million more patients a week compared with before the pandemic.
‘This demand is only going to increase with an ageing population so the NHS must adapt its services to match this need.
‘While people will always be able to see their family doctor when they need to, the NHS is giving people more options with more than 31,000 new staff working in general practice since 2019 meaning patients can get specialist support from mental health professionals, physios, and pharmacists without needing to see a GP first.’
Campaign materials are available for practices to download, including a toolkit, social media assets and posters featuring information on 14 different general practice roles. In addition, a film is available showing children interviewing different professionals about their jobs in a general practice setting.
NHSE reiterated that it is also training more than 7,500 staff in care navigation, so patients’ needs can be better assessed when they first contact their practice and can be seen by the right health professional.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘We welcome this information campaign and the expansion of services available to patients in primary care. Enabling patients to receive care from different health professionals in the familiar surroundings of their general practice will suit many patients. But they need to know what services are available and how they fit in with the more familiar professionals such as the GP and practice nurse.’