NHS England has launched a new campaign today to raise awareness of non-GP roles available in general practice, including pharmacists, mental health practitioners, paramedics, physios, and social prescribers.
It said that ‘public awareness of the range of support remains low’ and with one in five GP appointments being for ‘non-medical reasons such as loneliness or seeking advice on housing or debt’, it wants to ensure patients ‘get the right care when they need it’.
The campaign aims to ‘increase patients’ knowledge and confidence in the primary care triage process’ and will include educating patients on ARRS roles and on why receptionists ask patients questions about their condition when they contact their GP.
As announced in a webinar last month, it will include a short video of children interviewing different professionals about their jobs in a general practice setting.
Dr Amanda Doyle, NHSE’s national director for primary care and community services, said: ‘Record numbers of people are seeking support from their GP practice, with teams treating half a million more patients a week compared to before the pandemic, and this demand is only going to increase with an ageing population so the NHS must adapt its services to match this need.
‘While people will always be able to see their family doctor when they need to, the NHS is giving people more options with more than 31,000 new staff working in general practice since 2019 meaning patients can get specialist support from mental health professionals, physios, and pharmacists without needing to see a GP first.
‘The health service is also making it as easy as possible for people to contact their GP with 32 million people accessing the NHS app to book appointments or receive test results, so if you need support please come forward for care.’
Primary care minister Neil O’Brien said that general practice is ‘our front door to the NHS’ and this is why NHS England and the Government are expanding the support on offer to patients.
He added: ‘There’s now an extra 31,000 professionals – such as dieticians, paramedics and physiotherapists – working as part of GP teams and providing vital care to patients, or supporting doctors and nurses to do so.
‘GPs delivered about 15% more appointments over the last year compared to pre-pandemic, and that’s the result not just of more staff, but the hard work of teams in general practice.’
TV doctor and NHS GP Dr Ellie Cannon, who is supporting the campaign, said: ‘As a GP, it’s so helpful to have a range of health professionals on hand at my general practice, as it means my patients benefit from a team of specialists that can help them in many different ways.
‘Whether it’s mental health support or help with vaccinations or advice about their bones and joints, having more health professionals means that patients get the best possible care.
‘Remember, by giving us more information about what you need help with when you contact your practice, we can get you the right care you need.’
Earlier this year, North West London ICB launched a similar initiative to explain to patients how general practice is changing and why they may see a different clinical expert in future, depending on their need.
Meanwhile, GP locums have been asked to consider reductions in their expected hourly rate amid a reduction in available roles, in part due to the increase in ARRS staff.