This scheme is called Care Navigation. Care navigators are GP receptionists and admin staff who have been given specialist training in order to help them direct patients to the right health professional first time.
Dr Mohammed Umer, a GP at Darwen Healthcare, said:
“Across Blackburn with Darwen we are working hard to make sure that when people need to see a GP, they have access to one quickly and in a way that suits them, be that in person or over the phone. We know that sometimes though the GP isn’t really the best person to see and that patients could be seen and treated quicker by a nurse or a pharmacist for example. In some cases, the GP practice might not even be the right place at all for the query. That’s where care navigation comes in.
“It’s about giving patients choice and supporting and guiding them with the right information about other health care professionals who have the expertise to deal with a problem; often quicker and without the need to see the GP each time.”
Care navigation is a tried and tested model of care that improves access to primary care services for patients and reduces GP pressures all in one. It allows front line staff to provide patients with more information about local health and wellbeing services, both within and outside of primary care, in a safe, effective way. Care navigation offers the patient ‘choice, not triage’ to a range of services and to help people access the most appropriate service first, which is not always the GP. It means that patients will find it easier to get a GP appointment when they need one.
When a patient contacts the practice, the care navigator will ask for a brief outline of the problem so they can identify the patient’s need. This will allow the care navigator to refer to information about services in the practice, other NHS providers and the wider care and support sector. Where appropriate, they will direct the patient to these services. Their goal is to ensure that patients get the right care at the right time in the right place with the right outcome. For example, when a patient presents with symptoms that would be better dealt with by another service such as a pharmacist or optician, patients can be confidently offered these choices, allowing them to go straight to the service which best meets their health and wellbeing needs.
Care navigation will support practices and patients to make the best use of valuable NHS resources.
Five services will initially be available for care navigators to signpost to but as care navigation develops, more services will be introduced. These are:
• Minor Eye Treatment Service
• Health and Wellbeing
• Age UK
• Community pharmacy