Improving access to GPs and healthcare on your high street
The number of people visiting their GP practice is currently above pre-pandemic levels, with the proportion of face-to-face appointments being offered steadily increasing to 65% of all appointments offered.
We appreciate this means that sometimes getting an appointment at your GP can be a challenge, particularly at the moment when there is a high volume of respiratory and other winter-related conditions.
To help relieve the pressure on GPs we have introduced a number of initiatives, including providing some services, like blood pressure checks, in your community pharmacies and offering more appointments in the evening and at the weekend.
You can find out more by clicking on the headings below:
Community pharmacy teams provide a lot more than prescriptions and medicines. They also offer:
- flu vaccinations
- assessment and treatment for minor illnesses through the community pharmacist consultation scheme (CPCS)
- support and advice on medicines and their side effects
- sexual health advice
- blood pressure monitoring for over 40s
- health and lifestyle information
Where needed, they can also signpost, or help you get support from, other local services to stop smoking or drinking or lose weight and get more active.
There are some medications pharmacies cannot provide direct and so If they think you need to go to your GP practice, they will advise you to book an appointment.
Enhanced access – more appointments in the evenings and on Saturdays
GP practices across Coventry and Warwickshire are now offering evening and weekend appointments through a service called enhanced access. This mix of face-to-face and virtual appointments gives you more flexibility and opportunity to access GP services.
To get a weekend or evening appointment, you can book via your own surgery. Appointments with GPs, advanced clinical practitioners, practice nurses and health care assistants are available and GP receptionists book patients into the appropriate clinician for their illness or injury. These can include cervical screening and child immunisation appointments which people can find difficult to attend during working hours.
Extended access – Sunday GP appointments via NHS111
In addition to enhanced access, extended access, launched in winter 2022, also provides Sunday GP appointments through NHS 111. Again, there will be increased capacity at weekends over the Christmas period. This service aims to support the overall healthcare system, particularly during winter, and offer a GP appointment avoiding the need to visit urgent and emergency care.
Vaccinations remain key to keeping healthy all year round and particularly in winter. GPs and community pharmacies provide the free flu jab for those eligible and Covid jabs can be booked via the national booking service.
As the flu viruses circulating change every year, it is important to get this vaccination annually. Covid-19 vaccinations wear off after time and so boosters are available for those most at risk from serious complications of the virus. If you have not had a vaccination at all, or have only had one or two, you can also book.
GPs and other healthcare professionals – as well as support staff – get ill too. To ensure people can still be seen at their GP surgery if this happens, we have put in place a number of ways to provide cover.
This includes enhances access, extended access and the out of hours service as well as a pool of clinicians that can be brought into a practice to provide temporary cover.
Your GP practice is now home to a range of healthcare professionals who can help you get the treatment you need – we call these Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs).
Of course, there’s your doctor, but there may also be a clinical pharmacist, physiotherapist or a health and wellbeing coach. There are also social prescribers who can signpost you to a range of support services in your community.
Previously, a GP would have had to refer you externally for a variety of treatment and support, which could mean multiple appointments before you get to see the person who can best support with your health need. The introduction of MDTs has meant that there is more support available to you in your local practice, meaning you get the treatment you need quicker and more conveniently.
Referrals work via triage. This means that when you call your GP practice, they will ask you to describe what’s wrong so they can make sure you have an appointment with the most appropriate person. Sometimes receptionists will need to ask personal questions to make sure you see the right person. Reception staff are vital members of the team, skilled in assisting with triage and treat all information confidentially.
The roles that are available will vary from practice to practice, but you can take a look at some of the MDT roles that are available across Coventry and Warwickshire here.
If you want to learn more about MDTs and how they are benefitting patients you can read and watch our MDT case study.