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Helping patients find the right service this winter

​Dr Alex Degan is urging people to choose the right service for them this winter.
As Devon’s GP practices prepare for a busy winter, health professionals are advising people to choose the right service for them.

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

People should only attend their hospital’s A&E 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 enhanced roles, so they can ensure the patient is booked with the right person first time.

Dr Alex Degan, a Mid 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 receptionists are often able to answer queries themselves about prescriptions, referrals, test results and appointments. They can also signpost the patient to other sources of support in the community. 

“For people with social needs, 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 percent reduction in demand for GP appointments – freeing up GP time.

Dr Degan added: “It also makes more appropriate use of each team member’s skills and increases job satisfaction for receptionists.

“This in turn means it is easier for patients to get an appointment with the GP when they need it, and shortens the wait to get the right help.”