A new model that supports independent GP partners across the country in offering patients quicker access to primary care has been launched by independent sector health and social care provider, Care UK.
Practice Assist is designed to improve the clinical effectiveness and administrative efficiency of community-based GP practices through a dedicated centralised hub offering additional capacity and extended opening hours.
The model works in partnership with existing practice teams to provide patients with telephone consultations outside of normal opening hours or during busy periods, with a team of experienced Care UK GPs who have the ability to make onward referrals and update patient records.
It is envisaged that practices facing challenges in meeting patient demand, are finding it difficult to recruit GPs, or are searching for a cost-effective solution to facilitate seven-day access, will benefit most from the service. Patients will value the flexibility offered by the model in how and when they are contacted.
Dr Marjorie Gillespie, primary care medical director at Care UK, said: “We’re continually looking at new ways to support primary care services in meeting the challenges resulting from factors such as an ageing population, busy modern lifestyles and a shortage of GPs in general. By drawing on our deep understanding of primary care, feedback from patients and expertise in running GP surgeries, we’ve created the Practice Assist model to support other healthcare providers in satisfying their patient’s changing needs.
“The model doesn’t just support practices to increase capacity but, crucially, it offers patients more choice. People can still visit their GP in person, but through our dedicated centralised hub have the option of choosing a telephone consultation at their convenience. There are practices whose patients will really benefit from this model however for various reasons they’re unable to resource themselves. Practice Assist offers an efficient, clinically safe and patient focused solution to meeting those needs.”
The Balaam Street Practice in East London has worked with Care UK to test many elements of the model, significantly improving access for the practice’s 6,900 registered patients. The introduction of telephone consultations increased the total number of available appointments from 50 to 130 per day and resulted in those patients requiring a face to face consultation usually being seen on the same day.
Commenting on the model, Dr Barry Sullman, GP partner at Balaam Street Practice, cluster lead and clinical prescribing lead for Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “As a practice we found it challenging to meet patient demand. Care UK demonstrated to us that it knows how to manage telephone consultations and set up this model in a very thorough and comprehensive way. I’ve taken part in many launches as a commissioner and I’ve never before seen the attention to detail that took place.
“Now, patients are very happy because generally their problems are resolved on the same day. Doctors are happy because pressure has been reduced and clinical time has been freed, allowing them to concentrate on areas that had previously received less attention. The model has also demonstrated resilience, coping with variable service provision while showing patients they can receive high quality healthcare on a same-day basis.”
Patient feedback about the model at Balaam Street Practice has also been positive. S. Uddin said: “I received a call from a GP on the same day which I’m very happy about and what I really like is when I call in the mornings someone picks up the phone very quickly.”
Care UK is now working with the Benfield Valley Healthcare Hub in Brighton to offer the model to its 5,500 registered patients. Lindsay Coleman, managing partner, said: “We’ve had a GP vacancy since January and so have been looking for alternative ways to increase our clinical capacity. With an additional 25 telephone consultations from day one, we immediately felt the effect of having this extra resource working alongside our own GPs.
“We’re feeling very comfortable with the quality of care our patients are receiving – it’s just like having one of your own locums but based in a different building rather than a consulting room at the end of a corridor.”
Care UK runs eight NHS general practices that offer services including sexual health, vaccinations, cervical screening, diabetes and asthma clinics, advice on stopping smoking and blood pressure clinics. Its other NHS healthcare services include GP out of hours, 10 treatment centres specialising in elective surgery, 12 NHS 111 services, three urgent care centres, 12 health in justice services and three clinical assessment and treatment services.
For more information about Practice Assist, visit practice-assist.co.uk