Awareness campaign on practice choices

Source: Practice Index

A campaign has been launched to increase public awareness of professionals other than doctors working in general practice.

The campaign aims to help patients know which health workers, such as physiotherapists, they may be able to seek direct appointments with or “self refer”. NHS England says it wants to raise awareness of the physiotherapists, pharmacists, mental health practitioners, paramedics and social prescribers working in general practice.

Practices and primary care networks have recruited 31,000 of these staff in the last three years, NHS England says it is currently training 7,500 staff to be the first contact for patients in the place of GPs.

It says its survey found that only 36% of people are aware of these potential options in general practice. In the survey two thirds of respondents said they might be happy to see another health worker rather than a doctor if appropriate.

Social prescribers can help patients with non-medical issues, including helping them into work or to join community projects to help deal with loneliness and some social link workers have been running courses in basic skills such as cooking.

Andy, a paramedic in Wandsworth, says: “My job is to conduct home visits for anyone who’s unable to come to the practice for an appointment, perhaps because they’re elderly or not very mobile. I think this is such an important campaign as very few people know that this exists, and I want to try and help them get the right care more quickly and easily.”

Matt, a physiotherapist in east London, said: “My role as a first contact physiotherapist means that I help patients that come into the practice with any injuries or physical conditions that they need support for, such as a sprained ankle, sports injury, or more long-term chronic issues, such as back pain.

“Most people think that in order to see me, they need to first be seen by a GP, but that’s not the case. Now, people using my general practice can come and see me first after speaking to the reception team. This process means that patients have direct access to a wide range of specialists that can help them get the right care as soon as possible.”

GP Dr Ellie Cannon, who is supporting the campaign, said: “As a GP, it’s so helpful to have a range of health professionals on hand at my general practice, as it means my patients benefit from a team of specialists that can help them in many different ways.”

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “There’s now an extra 31,000 professionals – such as dieticians, paramedics and physiotherapists – working as part of GP teams and providing vital care to patients or supporting doctors and nurses to do so.

“GPs delivered about 15% more appointments over the last year compared to pre-pandemic, and that’s the result not just of more staff, but the hard work of teams in general practice.”

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