Active Signposting – a Win-Win for Everyone in the Practice Community

Active Signposting is one of the Ten High Impact Actions identified by NHS England as being central to transforming General Practice. It is a Win-Win for all concerned.

Together with the Coding of Medical Correspondence, NHS England has allocated £45 million for training GP Receptionists in Active Signposting. This means that over the next 5 years, the average GP Practice will be able to draw around £7,500 from their CCG to spend specifically on training for these two Actions.

Active Signposting is the process of non-medical telephone triage, where GP Receptionists, normally the first point of contact in the Practice, provide Care Navigation to patients. It is a Win-Win-Win for all involved; the Patient is given access to the most appropriate care giver with the least possible delay; the Receptionist enjoys much greater job satisfaction; and for the GP, up to 26% of their time is freed up from unnecessary consultations to allow them to focus on complex cases and those with chronic conditions.

The Primary Care Foundation has found that around 26% of all GP consultations are potentially avoidable and that the patients involved could be more efficiently helped by other members of the wider care team. Care Navigators ensure the patient is booked an appointment with the right professional care giver on the first visit or call.

Under Active Signposting, the role of Receptionist changes from that of simply helping patients to book a Doctor’s appointment to helping patients see the most appropriate care professional for their specific needs. It becomes much easier for patients to get an appointment with the GP when they need it, and shortens the wait to get the most appropriate help for their specific needs. Receptionists carrying out Care Navigation also enjoy much greater job satisfaction and self-esteem, as they move from appointment booker to actively helping their patients.

West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing was one of the Prime Ministers’ Challenge Fund sites and trialled the concept of Active Signposting and Care Navigation in early 2016. A total of 57 Receptionists in 6 Practices across the area were trained to work as Care Navigators for patients. Between them they signposted over 9,500 patients in 7 months and saved over 1,685 hours in GP time across Wakefield.

Practice Manager Susan Gilbert offered the following feedback on their experience of Active Signposting:

Care navigation has given my team a better understanding on how to help each patient, when they call for an appointment, to a level that they are comfortable with. They know their boundaries and never give clinical advice.

 It comes down to choice, and staff are able to suggest different options to the patient other than just seeing the GP. In our Practice, they can refer patients on to the nursing team, physiotherapists, opticians, pharmacists and a number of other specialists that have the expertise to deal with the patient’s problem. This cuts out unnecessary doctor’s appointments or hospital visits and frees that time up for the doctors to care for our patients that have complex or multiple long-term conditions.

They can always come back to see a GP of course, it’s not about placing a barrier – it’s about enhancing the service and care our patients get.

 From the response we’ve had so far, patients are discovering that the doctor is not always the first person you need to see and it’s given them more awareness about self-care as well. Knowing that they can see the physio quickly when they’ve got acute aches and pains for example is making such a difference.

As GP Practices increasingly integrate non GP care givers into the Practice care team, the opportunities increase to use Care Navigation to refer patients to Physiotherapists, Clinical Pharmacists, Nurse Practitioners and a wide range of community and voluntary services.

Active Signposting truly has the potential to transform General Practice. With NHS funding guaranteed for 5 years, it is one of the no-cost measures Practice Managers should really be exploring in their quest to manage the many pressures that are facing General Practice in the coming years.

DNA Insight provides advice and training to GP Practices in Active Signposting and Reducing Missed Appointments, two of NHS England’s Ten High Impact Actions, designed to transform General Practice as part of the GP Forward View strategy. Read more or Contact us at www.dnainsight.co.uk

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Insight articles contain what we hope are insightful commentaries on Active Signposting, Care Navigation, Coding of Medical Correspondence, Reducing Missed Appointments and GP Buddies. 

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