Up-skilling GP Receptionists in the Age of the Primary Care Network

An Introduction to PCNs

While GP practices have been finding different ways of working together over many years – for example in Federations, Localities, Clusters and Networks – the NHS long-term plan and the new GP contract, formalises this arrangement with the introduction of the Primary Care Network.

All GP practices are expected to come together in geographical networks covering populations of approximately 30–50,000 patients by June 2019 if they are to take advantage of additional funding attached to the GP contract. This size is consistent with the size of the Primary Care Homes, which exist in many places in the country, but much smaller than most GP Federations. To do this they will be expected to provide a wider range of primary care services to patients, involving a wider set of staff roles than might be feasible in individual practices, for example, First Contact Physiotherapist, Extended Access and Social Prescribing. Networks will receive specific funding for Clinical Pharmacists and Social Prescribing link workers in 2019/20, with funding for Physiotherapists, Physician Associates and Paramedics in subsequent years.

PCNs will also be the footprint around which integrated community-based teams will develop, and community and mental health services will be expected to configure their services around PCN boundaries. These teams will provide services to people with more complex needs, providing proactive and anticipatory care.

The Role of the Receptionist

As we have found in working with other Federations and GP collectives, the role of the Receptionist is absolutely key to ensuring that the potential benefits of a PCN are maximised. With access to a much broader range of clinicians, specialists and community based services across the PCN, the role of Receptionist has to change. As the first point of contact for patients across the PCN, the role of the Receptionist has to evolve from simply booking the next patient on the phone into the next available GP appointment, to one where they sit at the heart of the PCN’s multi disciplinary team, acting as Care Navigators.

From here they have intimate knowledge of the skill sets of the increasing variety of clinicians available in the PCN, as well as a detailed knowledge of the services available from voluntary, council commissioned and third sector organisations that will become an integral part of the PCN. Able to book patients directly into these services, the Receptionist becomes a Care Navigator, signposting their patients to the right clinician, in the right place, at the right time.

Active Signposting or Care Navigation (the terms are often used interchangeably) is one of the 10 High Impact Actions from the GP Forward View Strategy that can be deployed to great effect in a PCN, reaching its true potential. Receptionists have booking access to, and intimate knowledge of the wide scope of professional services available within the hub and will be able to offer and book patients into the most appropriate service for their needs.

This level of knowledge and the confidence to offer a wider variety of signposts can be acquired from a variety of training programmes such as DNA Insight’s RCGP Accredited ReceptionPlus Programme and will increase the quality of engagement with patients, creating a virtuous circle that will enable the PCN to function as effectively as envisaged.

DNA Insight provides consultancy and training to GP Practices in Active Signposting, Workflow Optimisation and Social Prescribing, three of NHS England’s Ten High Impact Actions designed to transform General Practice as part of the GP Forward View strategy. Contact us on 0800 978 8323 or read more of our Insights at www.dnainsight.co.uk


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