GP receptionists have been given enhanced roles to act as ‘care navigators’ and direct patients to different services including pharmacy and physiotherapy.
Acting as gatekeepers to GP access, a group of GP practices in West Yorkshire has trialed the scheme, which is part a £45m government investment to free up GPs’ time.
There are now 270 trained ‘care navigators’ covering 64,000 patients across Wakefield, and over the 10-month trial it has been estimated that 930 GP hours have been saved.
Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board, Sandra Gidley, welcomed the initiative.
She said: “It helps patients see the right health professional for their needs. Pharmacists’ expertise can benefit patients, by providing them with immediate care, and colleagues in the practice by relieving their workload. The simple message to patients is to talk to their pharmacist first, because many problems can be sorted out quickly and easily without the need to see a doctor.”
Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Care navigators are not replacements for GPs — or practice nurses, pharmacists, or any other healthcare professional working in primary care — and if a patient really needs to see a GP, then they will be able to…”
“It is important that these pilots are rigorously evaluated to ensure that patients are benefiting,” she added.