A practice in Lancashire is trialling a scheme that will see patients who phone for an appointment to see their GP potentially sent to other healthcare professionals instead, including the practice nurse, after talking through their problem with a ‘care navigator’.
Patients will first have to discuss their symptoms on the phone with the navigator, who will then decide whether the patient needs to see a GP, or if they can be sent to another member of staff, such as the practice nurse or pharmacist.
The scheme is currently being trialled in Hyndburn and, if successful, will be introduced to remaining practices in East Lancashire in 2018.
Care navigators will be trained by qualified healthcare professionals – including nurses and GPs – so that they are able to provide the best advice to presenting complaints.
It has received criticism from some patients for forcing them to talk to medically-unqualified reception staff about personal health issues.
But Dr Abdul Mannan, a GP in Rossendale whose practice has also been running the scheme, claimed that patients ‘have nothing to worry about’ when talking through their problems with a care navigator.
He said: ‘We don’t think of these staff in terms of GP receptionists, which is quite outdated.
‘But rather, there are a number of admin staff in GP surgeries who are qualified with lots of experience and training in dealing with patients.
‘The scheme has also seen appointments freed up, as we had patients coming to us to get paracetamols or minor illnesses and injuries, which could be dealt with elsewhere in the service.’
He added that he believed the scheme could ‘save lives’. He said: ‘A patient could phone the surgery in the morning with chest problems, and under the care navigation scheme, the surgery could signpost them to paramedics.
‘These paramedics will then come straight to the patient’s house rather than the patient wait until 6pm in the evening when they could have a heart attack in that time.’