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Deben Health Group trains receptionists in ‘care navigation’ to free up GPs’ time

PUBLISHED: 15:21 27 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:36 27 November 2017

Staff from Deben Health Group, which has trained its receptionists in care navigation.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Staff from Deben Health Group, which has trained its receptionists in care navigation. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Receptionists at a super-group of GP surgeries in east Suffolk have been trained in ‘care navigation’ in a bid to lighten the load on busy GPs and bring down patient waiting times.

Dr Mark Lal.
 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Dr Mark Lal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

People calling for an appointment at any of the eight practices within Deben Health Group are now being asked to provide as much information about their condition as they feel comfortable with so the receptionist can take the best course of action, which may involve signposting them to another service, such as physiotherapy, mental health care or a pharmacist.

The patient may even have a query that could be dealt with there and then over the phone.

Dr Mark Lal, GP at Wickham Market Medical Centre and chairman of Deben Health Group, said: “It’s never about stopping them seeing a doctor.

“We are not asking receptionists to make a diagnosis.

Linda Deabill. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Linda Deabill. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“If there is any doubt or uncertainty they would be put in front of more clinical staff.

“It’s only when they have clear cut symptoms that they might be signposted.”

Dr Lal said demand on surgeries was increasing “significantly” while at the same time general practice was facing a “recruitment crisis”.

He added: “There was a time when 100 GPs would be applying for one vacancy. Now we are lucky if we have one person applying. We had an advertisement up recently and we had no-one apply.

“So we have to make sure that GPs’ skills are used in the most appropriate way, so their time is used for the people who really need it.

“The number of GP appointments across this group in a day are in the hundreds. If we saved just a few a day by directing the patient to a more appropriate clinician that makes a big difference and it means people who need to see a GP will be able to see one.”

Surgeries within Deben Health Group - Church Farm Surgery, Aldeburgh; Debenham Group Practice; Framfield House, Woodbridge; Framlingham Surgery; Little St John’s Street Surgery, Woodbridge; Saxmundham Health; The Peninsula Practice, Alderton; Wickham Market Medical Centre - are always looking for new ways to work in closer collaboration and share resources.

Linda Deabill, manager of The Penisula Practice and who co-ordinated the care navigation programme for the group, said: “We have got to work together like that now, a lot of practices are struggling. We are all one stop away, if a GP goes off long-term sick we could be in crisis, so we are all trying to work smarter and perhaps preempt changes ahead.”

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