In May 2023, the UK government and NHS announced a multi-million-pound overhaul of primary care services to make it easier for patients to access their general practitioners (GPs). Here, we provide a detailed overview of what these changes mean for patients, from the technology upgrades to the role of care navigators.
Key Highlights of the New Plan
- Immediate Response to Patient Queries
Patients can now find out how their request will be handled on the same day they contact their GP practice. This eliminates the need for patients to call back later to find out the status of their query.
- Technology Upgrades
This year, a £240 million investment will be made to replace old analogue phone systems with modern digital telephony. This ensures that patients never encounter engaged tones when calling their GP practice.
- Online Tools
Easy-to-use online tools will be introduced to help patients get the care they need as soon as possible. These tools will be integrated with the clinical systems, allowing practice staff to identify patients and their information quickly.
- Urgent and Non-Urgent Appointments
If a patient’s need is urgent, they will be assessed and given an appointment on the same day. For non-urgent cases, appointments should be offered within two weeks, or patients will be referred to NHS 111 or a local pharmacy.
- Role of Care Navigators
Receptionists will be trained to become expert ‘care navigators’ who gather information and direct patients to the most suitable healthcare professional. This aims to simplify and streamline the process for patients.
What This Means for Patients
- Easier Access to GPs
The new plan aims to end the 8 a.m. scramble for appointments by improving technology and reducing bureaucracy. Patients will find it easier to get through to their general practice team online or over the phone.
- Faster Response Times
Patients will know how their query will be managed on the same day they make contact. This is a significant improvement over the previous system, where patients often had to call back or wait for a response.
- More Convenient Options
The introduction of modern online booking and messaging systems will offer patients a convenient way to get the help they need, freeing up phone lines for those who prefer to call.
- Specialised Care
Care navigators will help assess, prioritise, and respond to patient needs. They will direct patients to other professionals within the general practice or other medical professionals, such as community pharmacists, who can best meet the needs of the patients.
The government’s new plan to overhaul primary care services is a significant step towards modernising how patients contact their GP surgeries. With technology upgrades, specialised care navigators, and a commitment to faster response times, patients stand to benefit greatly from these changes. The aim is to make things more convenient for patients and make the workload more manageable for general practice teams, thereby improving the overall healthcare system.