Plans to improve access to GP services in Surrey already underway, mirroring ambitions in new national plan
NHS Surrey Heartlands continues to focus on improving access to services at GP surgeries through a range of initiatives that aim to help people get the care they need quickly and improve people’s experiences, mirroring ambitions set out in a new national plan to improve access to primary care, published 9 May 2023.
In March this year Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of the NHS, visited Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership to see how, as a health and care system, we are enhancing access to primary care and joining up services for patients as we take forward the recommendations of the national Fuller stocktake, led by Surrey Heartlands Chief Executive, Professor Claire Fuller.
We can see many of the areas we have previously talked about reflected in the plans published yesterday to improve access to primary care services across the NHS.
Nikki Mallinder, Director of Primary Care for Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership, explains:
“When Amanda Pritchard visited us earlier in the year, we welcomed the opportunity to share the work we have been taking forward with our frontline practice teams to improve access to GP services and it’s great to see many of these areas mirrored in the national plan.
“Locally, we have listened to feedback from patients, staff and wider stakeholders and we have used these insights to co-design a series of improvements that respond to the issues and challenges people told us about to help improve care – and also improve people’s experiences, particularly in getting the advice or help they need in a timely way.”
NHS Surrey Heartlands has been working closely with the 104 GP surgeries in Surrey Heartlands to drive forward improvements for patients and staff across a range of areas including:
- Introducing new telephone lines and cloud-based telephony services that help to increase capacity so calls can be answered more quickly, or callers can choose to be called back. This new technology has also enhanced practices’ ability to add different call options so people can select the service or team member they need and get through to this person more quickly. Surrey Heartlands has made good progress in delivering this national ambition and this new cloud-based telephony system is now available in 94% of our practices, with others coming on board soon.
- Employing a wider range of health professionals as part of a national programme, providing specialist skills directly into GP surgeries. The professionals will vary by surgery depending on the needs of the local population, but can include physiotherapists, pharmacists and paramedics. They can advise on many different areas, helping to free up GP time and allowing patients to get the support they need, more quickly. We have already introduced over 300 new staff members in these roles across Surrey Heartlands as part of this initiative.
- Launching new GP surgery websites over the coming months, which will be more user-friendly and easier to navigate. This is in response to feedback from patients, through both locally commissioned and national research, which found that people were finding it difficult to find their way around the current websites. We are seeing increasing numbers of people choosing to request help and support from their surgery online so this investment will make it easier and more convenient for people.
- Introducing innovative new services to help people get the advice they need quickly, including access to same day urgent care services, linked to the recommendations set out in the national Fuller Stocktake. An example of this is a new same-day access integrated call handling hub in East Surrey, which is contacted by hundreds of patients each day and provides fast triage and advice to make sure people get the help they need quickly.
- Increasing the amount of services available through the NHS App, such as ordering repeat prescriptions, viewing test results and medications and requesting an appointment with the surgery. Take up of the NHS App is already high in Surrey (with over 62% of people aged 13+ registered in Surrey Heartlands) and we are working with GP surgeries and the NHS App team to widen the services available, so people can also submit online forms and receive messages from their surgery, in line with the ambitions set out in the national plan.
Dr Pramit Patel, Lead Primary Care Network Clinical Director for Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership and Surrey GP added:
“Thanks to expanded practice teams, investment in new and advanced telephony systems and plans for more ‘user-friendly’ practice websites to help improve the patient journey for people who want to use online services, we are really starting to see transformation happening that will improve access and ensure people get the care they need.
“These areas are all fundamental to improving care for patients – and over the coming months we will continue to drive forward our ambitious plans across Surrey Heartlands, working closely with practices and frontline teams, who continue to do an incredible job as they see and help more patients than ever.”