‘Care navigators’ introduced at Suffolk doctors’ surgeries to signpost patients and free up appointments
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Patients phoning to see a doctor in Ipswich and east Suffolk will be screened before they are given a face-to-face appointment in a bid to reduce demand.
New ‘care navigators’ will be introduced in surgeries in the area over the next 12 months and their job will be to signpost people to other services in the community where appropriate, in turn giving GPs and nurses more time to help those who really need it.
Maddie Baker-Woods, chief operating officer for Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said this was an “evolution” of what receptionists in practices were already doing.
In the future, patients will also be encouraged to make better use of surgeries’ websites and mobile phone ‘apps’ where they will be able to access symptom checkers and self-help advice for minor ailments.
Mrs Baker-Woods added: “We recognise that the practices are very busy places and we want to support them in meeting patients’ needs as quickly and as effectively as they can.
“There has been some national research about the range of issues that individuals come to the practice with. Some are absolutely medical issues, but there are also a range of social and wider issues that patients present with where there are potentially other professionals within the community, whether its housing or debt or dental, who can support them.”
The idea was put forward by the NHS nationally and is already rolled out in other areas, Mrs Baker-Woods said.
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Attendees at a public meeting held by the CCG in Stowmarket on Tuesday were asked for their feedback.
Pauline Quinn, the CCG’s lay member for patient and public involvement, said reaction was “generally pretty good” but some shared concerns about confidentiality.
She added: “They [care navigators] are not there to replace the medical and health expertise of doctors and nurses, they are there to signpost.
“Currently a patient might go to see a GP who will then say ‘you need to see someone else’. It can be quite an indirect route.
“It will save patients time and effort because they will see and speak to the right person first and as a consequence doctors and nurses can focus their time on people with really complex needs.”