Wilmslow Health Centre switched to a total triage model of care at a particularly challenging time – right at the height of the COVID pandemic. Where their new triage system initially supported the practice during lockdown, it has now become a sustainable long-term solution for managing demand. Today, it continues to have a ‘game-changing’ impact, helping the practice save time, prioritise clinical capacity and direct patients to the most appropriate person or team.
How Wilmslow’s total triage system works
At the heart of Wilmslow’s triage system is our online consultation product Patient Triage, which gives patients a simple, quick way to contact their GP practice. The team encourages patients to use the online Patient Triage form to submit requests. To ensure equity of access, they also use Reception Flow, which allows the team to submit requests on behalf of patients, either over the phone or in person. With Self-Book, the team also invite patients to book an appointment in just a couple of clicks, offering choice and flexibility.
The team at Wilmslow recently gave their reflections on their total triage system and how it has positively impacted the practice…
Here’s what Wilmslow say about the system
1. How has Reception Flow helped you to manage patient inbound better?
Ellie: It’s definitely helped our patient relationships – just due to the simplicity of it and how it functions within our triage system. It’s taken the pressure off reception to make those clinical decisions.
When I first started, you’d call at eight o’clock, or one o’clock for an urgent appointment whereas now there’s more safety netting using the Accurx system. Because you’ve got the steps in place to make sure that the patient is appropriately looked after by the right member of staff.
Amar: It’s much less stressed and pressured. We’re able to handle patient queries in an organised and safe, efficient way. For me, what makes a difference is the ability to assess which patients need to be seen that day, and which patients can wait for an appointment later – and which patients don’t actually need an appointment.
Fari: We liked the ability that we could control when it went on and off because… sometimes your capacity changes.
2. How have your new workflows reduced the burden on your team’s capacity to manage patient requests?
Amar: We found that when we were triaging and making those assessments of the requests that were coming in, a lot of those patients didn’t actually need to be seen by anyone at the practice. We also had the use of ARRs roles from the PCN which were redirecting some work to the musculoskeletal, acute eye work and physiotherapy service teams. We were able to channel those using the pathways that Accurx offered to us.
Fari: We managed to develop a risk stratification tool so that when you see the request come in, you can immediately work out how urgent it is and who needs to see it. That’s also important because the number of staff we have in primary care has changed. It has been a real game changer for us.
3. What would you say to practices that are worried about a new system adding to their capacity and workload?
Ellie: No one likes change, so when it got introduced [at Wilmslow] the patients wanted to stick to the old routine. I think now they’re realising that it’s a lot simpler for them and the doctors and it creates more of a harmony for getting appointments.
Amar: Patients are able to contact you more quickly, but you are able to deal with those requests far more efficiently, and your demand also falls. The total triage system helps us to manage that demand a lot more effectively.
What has the impact been?
Since switching to total triage, Wilmslow has had an overwhelming increase in positive feedback from patients. NHS figures also show that the practice delivered an extra 15,000 appointments last year than in 2019. They’ve been able to tackle the 8am rush by implementing a simple process for online and telephone requests, which has enabled faster care navigation, assessment and response. In 2022, the practice delivered 63,000 appointments according to NHS digital data – 93% of them were face to face.