GP practices in Wesham, Preston, trained their medical receptionists to ask patients why they are calling to better understand their needs and give them the right appointment or treatment.
This came after the NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) introduced the requirement to help GP practices prioritise with appointments those that are worse-off.
Through this system, poorly patients can be promptly identified and have access to an on-call GP without having to wait for an appointment.
Receptionists can also refer patients to a practice nurse, health care assistant or community pharmacist, when the problem does not require the expertise of a GP. Alternatively, patients are offered a phone consultation, or advised to visit a walk in centre.
Patients are made aware of the requirement to disclose the reason of their call as soon as they call the practice, which needs to have a recorded message by one of the GPs explaining the procedure.
However, a survey of 2,000 people published last year showed that 40% of them dislike having to talk to GP receptionists about their symptoms.
‘We need people to understand that when the person who answers the phone at their GP practice asks why they are calling they are not being nosey,’ said the CCG deputy chair Dr Adam Janjua. ‘This is for a very good reason and will make sure they get the best possible care for their situation.’
In response to this requirement and to improve patients’ experience, some practices have introduced a new role, called ‘healthcare navigator’ or ‘patient advisor’.
This person is in charge of making sure that patients are seen by the right person at the right place and time.
Practice manager at the Thornton Practice in Thornton-Cleveleys Amy Sissons said: ‘Our Patient Participation Group assisted in the development of the role.’
The practice received positive feedback from patients, who understood and accepted the new role covered by the patient advisers.
‘Our patients are quite happy to use other services that are not always based within the practice where it is appropriate. However we want to reassure patients that the systems in place ensure where it is clinically appropriate patients will get to see a GP.’