Paramedics will work in a small number of London GP practices this winter to help deliver the flu vaccination programme and reduce pressure on GPs.
Two paramedics have been assigned to each of the six primary care networks (PCNs) in the borough of Merton and will work on rotation between the London Ambulance Service and the practices.
The NHS South West London CCG pilot scheme, which will run until April 2021, will see the 12 paramedics using e-bikes to cycle to patients in the community who struggle to get outside for a flu jab, according to the CCG.
The medics will also assist with patient care by assessing and treating those suffering with long-term conditions, recently discharged from hospital or have coronavirus and a pre-existing health condition, said the CCG.
After assessing patients, the paramedics will work with GPs to refer them to the most appropriate follow-up care and assist with their care plans.
This is intended to speed up the time it takes for patients to be seen, and it is hoped this will also reduce pressure on the London Ambulance Service by reducing the number of unnecessary patient trips to A&E.
Though the scheme is expected to last until next spring, London Ambulance Service said it hopes to make this a permanent feature, with the aim of partnering with other PCNs to expand it across the capital.
The pilot supports the NHS’s Long Term Plan in its ambition to provide integrated care to patients within the community, it added.
Dr Vasa Gnanapragasam, GP borough lead for Merton at NHS South West London CCG, said: ‘This is an innovative way of helping people get the right care and support, whether the paramedics are visiting patients with coronavirus, checking on someone after being in hospital or helping those who struggle to get out have a flu jab.
Mariam Ganesaratnam, CEO of Merton Health, said: ‘This year has been a challenge for the entire NHS, with pressures building in general practice and A&Es, and our hospitals seeing an increase in admissions. We have been pulling out the stops to ensure that we are prepared for winter and that our teams are resilient.
‘I have had the pleasure of working with London Ambulance Service paramedics on the frontline and we believe that this new service will bring significant benefits to our networks, practices and our patients. These paramedics will be vital to relieving winter pressures and will be a real asset to Primary Care Networks in Merton. This has been an exciting opportunity and we hope that this partnership extends beyond the six-month pilot.’
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice.