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Home > News > Helping patients find the right service this winter

Helping patients find the right service this winter

As Devon’s GP practices prepare for a busy winter, health professionals are advising people to choose the right service for their problem.

The NHS 111 helpline, pharmacies, minor injuries units and GP practices are the right sources of treatment and information for people who feel under the weather this winter.

People should only attend their hospital’s emergency department when they have a serious or life-threatening condition.

In recent years, most GP practices in Devon have taken a more systematic approach to identifying the most effective ways of directing patients to the service they need.

Often this has involved training staff to undertake extended roles, so they can ensure the patient is booked with the right person first time.

Dr John Womersley, a North Devon GP, said: “Many receptionists are trained and supported to do more than just book appointments with GPs and nurses.

“They are qualified to ask what the patient’s need is and then to connect the patient to the most appropriate source of advice or help for their query or problem.

“Often this will be a GP, but more and more receptionists are able to answer queries themselves about prescriptions, referrals, test results and appointments.

“Using an established local Directory of Services, there are times when they can signpost the patient to another, more appropriate source of support in the community.

“For people with social needs then community support is often much more appropriate than a medical appointment.”

Since introducing this way of working, a number of practices have seen a 25 per cent reduction in demand for GP appointments – freeing up GP time for other clinical tasks.

Dr Womersley added: “The result of this signposting by receptionists means it is easier and quicker for patients to get an appointment with the GP, either face to face or a phone call, when they need it.

“It also makes more appropriate use of each and every team member’s skills.”