GP Provider Support Unit, Birmingham and Solihull

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This is one of RAFT’s access actions for practices. The objective is to ensure training, information and protocols/guidance are available to help practice staff navigate patients to the most appropriate person or service without unnecessary use of GP appointments.

Rationale: Patients contacting their GP practice have a wide range of differing needs, so effective signposting is crucial to connecting them with the right person or service at the right time and in the right way (online / phone / in-person / video / visit). The task of signposting has become more important as the multidisciplinary team has grown in primary care and the range of options available for patients has grown. It is no longer fair or appropriate to expect patients always to know what the best option is for their particular need.

National research and local audits indicate that a significant proportion of patients are being booked for GP appointments when the GP themselves can see there was a more appropriate option. Practices and patients are still on a journey towards signposting or ‘care navigation’ being a normal part of access, and many practices will need to take action to enhance its effectiveness.

Enhanced Service Offer

As part of BSol’s Enhanced Service Offer (ESO), practices are required to provide evidence that:

  • Training has been provided for reception staff in the knowledge and skills for effective signposting / ‘care navigation’, or that the practice has assessed staff’s skills and found them adequate already.
  • Information about services in the practice, PCN and the wider community is accessible in a searchable format for staff.
  • Guidance (for example in the form of protocols, flowcharts or guides) is available to support staff in selecting the most appropriate option(s) for a patient in a given situation. This must include measures to ensure that potentially urgent situations can be identified by non-clinical staff.

Suggested actions

  • Care navigation training. Set aside protected time for reception staff to engage in the new training which will be provided across BSol. It is suggested that reception teams join the training in tranches to reduce the impact on the practice, or that partners staff the reception (this can be a very useful learning exercise).
  • Care navigation support. Encourage a mentoring approach following training, to support staff in using and embedding their new insights and skills.
  • Directory of services. Set aside time to introduce staff to the new BSol DoS, and encourage them to ask questions and make suggestions.
  • Signposting protocols. Engage staff in the process of developing and refining protocols/guides to support safe and effective signposting.

Support from the PSU

The PSU is planning to provide care navigation training for all practices in Birmingham and Solihull, as well as to develop a new searchable directory of services accessible in a web browser. Practices will be notified about relevant timescales and actions required, and full information will be available on the PSU website as it becomes available.

Practices are encouraged to join their locality RAFT collaborative to share the work of reviewing and improving practice protocols to guide care navigation and ensure patient safety for urgent presentations is satisfactory. The RAFT programme will provide resources and templates to make it easier for practices to design specific solutions for their situation and to test and implement changes.