NHS England recently published a plan highlighting a series of measures for supporting GPs this winter. The plan also included an ask of Integrated Care Boards to feed back on where potential investment could be best targeted for rapid improvement and resilience, as well as longer-term developments to support patient access and staff experience.
Both major parties also made promises in their recent Conference speeches on primary care access. But let’s make no mistake, primary care faces an impossible task meeting these commitments in the short term. The workforce and capacity challenge is enormous alongside increased patient demand. Add to that the impact of the elective backlog now being felt in primary care and there is a sense of crisis in the sector.
Dramatic changes are needed. Every member of staff and the public needs the latest round of reform kicked off by the Fuller Report on Primary Care and ICSs to be a success. However, tech can also play a very important role to reduce the administrative burden on such an overstretched workforce. NHS England and ICBs should consider national and regional interventions to support GP Practices, in particular those that reduce workload, improve efficiency and provide better access for patients.
Here are a few things we're currently focused on to support primary care through such unprecedented times.
We’ve seen a lot of negativity in the press this year about access to GP care. But, GPs are actually seeing more patients than ever before. Yet, as a patient, the experience of trying to access care can be frustrating, often involving long waits on the phone or engaging with different booking systems.
Accurx’s newest feature - Self Book - allows Practices to send booking links to individuals or groups of patients via SMS so that they can book an appointment online at a time that suits them, removing the need for patients to phone the Practice. The appointment is booked straight into the Practice’s Appointment Book. This innovation brings a multitude of benefits:
- Patient experience is improved - they don’t need to phone in and wait in the queue
- Practice workload is reduced - it’s much quicker to send a link than booking in a patient on the phone
- Phone lines are freed up for patients who do need to help on the phone, thus improving access for all
We believe Self Book (part of our new Booking Module) has enormous potential to improve GP access and save Practices time. Since launching just five weeks ago, over 2.9 million booking links have been sent to patients, demonstrating how useful this solution is for primary care.
Our online consultation solution - Patient Triage - has been designed to be quick and simple for patients and practice staff.
Patients can submit short medical and admin queries to their Practice in their own words. Again, this removes the need to phone the Practice, thus freeing up phone lines for other patients.
Practices can triage requests from a shared inbox, assigning between staff and responding to patients in the most appropriate way (SMS, video, questionnaire, booking link and so on). Incoming requests can also be saved to the patient’s medical record in one click, saving practice time.
This winter, being able to easily provide patients with the right care at the right time can make a big difference in freeing up staff time while ensuring patients get the help they need.
Questionnaires are used frequently in primary care to gather clinical and other information from patients outside of appointments, for example for screening and monitoring.
Our questionnaire feature - Florey - allows Practices to send pre-made questionnaires to patients via SMS, for example to gather Blood Pressure readings, and then saves the coded readings back to the medical record so that they don’t need to be entered manually.
We work with 98% of GP practices, and we’ve seen how simple tech that provides seamless communication between healthcare staff and their patients can save staff time, ensure more patients receive care and transform their experience for the better.
This winter (and beyond), ICBs should consider how to implement technology that can sustainably support GP practices to deliver against the higher demand for patient care, despite limited resources.
If you're interested in hearing more, please contact our partnerships team at firstname.lastname@example.org