HEALTH AND CARE: Working with patients to solve problems

GP practices are working together to provide everyone with the right sort of care
GP practices are working together to provide everyone with the right sort of care

Practices across Worthing are speaking out to patients about the pressures in primary care and how they can help to solve them together.

Increasing workloads, financial challenges and a national shortage of GPs and nurses are making it increasingly difficult for practices to provide the level of care patients have come to expect, but by working together they hope to be able to address some of the pressures.

The practices are working together to look at new ways of working, including recruiting highly-trained paramedic practitioners and advanced nurses who can provide advice and support for patients over the phone and in person at their surgery.

They have also been looking at how they can provide urgent primary care and on-the-day appointments for patients, while at the same time booking in appointments for people with ongoing health conditions that need more regular care and attention.

All of these steps are in response to the pressures currently being felt by GP practices across the country, not just in Worthing.

All of the practices in Worthing have tried to recruit over the past year and have either not been successful, or the response has been very limited to what they would have expected just a few years ago.

It has already been necessary for two small practices in Worthing to merge with The Lime Tree and Worthing Medical Group surgeries.

Additionally the Highdown Surgery in the Worthing closed last month and nearly 2,400 patients from that surgery have been asked to re-register with another GP practice of their choice in Worthing, which has significantly increased the pressures on existing local surgeries.

Dr Ian Pidgeon, from Barn Surgery, said: “There are very real pressures on GP practices across the country and locally, but GP practices are working extremely hard to manage these demands.

“We don’t want anyone to think that they aren’t going to get help if they need it; we are just looking to work with our patients so we can make sure we are available for those who need us.”

Practices are asking patients for three things – to share with the reception teams what help they need so they can be directed to the most appropriate member of the medical team, to cancel any unwanted appointments, and to think about how they can look after themselves if they have a minor injury or illness.

David Whitehead, clinical director at the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are all proud of our local GP practices and we want to them to be able to continue to provide strong local NHS services to our communities but we are aware of the pressures under which they all work.

“Making sure that high quality care is available for our patients is our absolute priority. To do this we need to support GP practices to look at safe, innovative ways of providing primary care.”

The Patient Participation Group (PPG) at St Lawrence Surgery is leading the way when it comes to encouraging patients to self-care.

In many cases they say people can take care of our own minor ailments and injuries, reducing the number of GP consultations and enabling local GPs to focus on caring for higher risk patients such as those with complex conditions.

The PPG has made information available at the practice and online about common conditions and how they can be treated effectively at home.

Chris Moon-Willems from the PPG said: “Self-care is about empowering our patients with the confidence and information to look after themselves when they can and to visit health professionals when they need to. We often see people come into the surgery or call up to book an appointment for an illness that they can manage from home.

“A well-stocked medicine cupboard can provide you with all you need to manage sore throats, temperatures and minor injuries without the need to come into your GP practice. When we are ill most of us would rather be at home anyway, and so why don’t we think about what we can do ourselves to help us to get better without seeing a GP.”

Self-care help can be found at www.nhs.uk

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