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The Evolution of The General Practice Reception & Admin Teams

4th November 2019

A guest blog by Russell Houghton, General Manager at Conexus Healthcare.

Across the country the role of the general practice reception & admin teams are rapidly innovating and evolving to help practices best meet the needs of patients across England. In recent times, these teams have fundamental importance to the achievement of the NHS Long Term Plan and consequently patient care in general practice. In my role at Conexus Healthcare, Wakefield’s General Practice Confederation, we seek to support our practices to unleash the potential of these teams through; providing training & development opportunities, redesigning systems, and working at scale.

In Wakefield, we are witnessing innovation and adoption of new care models across all our general practices. In 2014, practices in Wakefield sought to support patients to access the most appropriate professional, at their first point of contact with our general practice reception teams. Reception teams across the district took the challenge to learn new skills and develop their knowledge of local services to help patients get access to the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

These reception teams now help 5,000 patients each month to choose the most appropriate services to best meet their needs. Subsequently, the approach developed in Wakefield has since been spread to thousands of practices across England, supporting millions of patients across the U.K. to access a range of professionals and services quicker such as Social Prescribers, Pharmacists and Physiotherapists.

Our practices recently worked together to build a district-wide service to meet the needs of patients on evenings, weekends and bank holidays. The service launched in 2017, and over fifty Wakefield district practice staff worked together across sites in Wakefield & Pontefract to help patients access urgent GP appointments, and routine Nurse or Health Care Assistant appointments for asthma reviews, NHS health checks and blood tests.

The service relies on reception staff during these times to ensure the safety of patients waiting for appointments, respond to the urgent needs of patients, support the clinicians and help improve the quality of the service through robust patient surveying. Certainly without their commitment to working at these times, the service would not be operational, and the service would not support wider urgent primary and secondary care service demand as it does. Furthermore, owing to their determination, the service collects substantial feedback from over 50% of our patients each week, enabling the service to make rapid improvements for patients.

I recently went to meet a few of our practices where the admin teams had developed safe and effective processes to release hours of GP time each week through coding and actioning 86% of patient correspondence from health providers. Traditionally, letters had all been posted to the GPs, the GP would read through each one, and then code or take action from the letters. Now, our practice admin teams in Wakefield and across England are being skilled up to implement safe and effective systems to manage clinical correspondence. Consequently, this is improving the quality of patients records and work-life balance for their practice colleagues.

All these innovations are improvements to the patients experience in the NHS, additionally the support that non-clinical staff are having are both alleviating pressure on practices and secondary care. Non-clinical staff are fundamental to achieving good patient experience and outcomes. We are looking forward to our continued work with these hard-working, resilient and innovative practice teams in 2019 and beyond.

Russell Houghton

General Manager

Conexus Healthcare