Services in general practice are being transformed to make it easier for patients to access a wider range of help and support, closer to home, by phone or online. GP practices are now home to a diverse team of health and wellbeing experts, working alongside GPs, including advanced nurse practitioners, social prescribing link workers and care coordinators.
Dr Manisha Kumar, Chief Medical Officer at NHS GM (and practising Manchester GP), explains why: “Our GP practices have come under real pressure in recent years. At the same time, the health needs of our patients are changing. A multi-disciplinary GP practice team, made up of highly qualified health professionals, means we can provide the right support, at the right time. Whether it’s a bad back, loneliness or a medicine review – just contact your practice as normal and they will direct you to the best person to support you.
“At the same time, this new way of working is helping to free up GP appointments for patients with more complex health concerns or those who are managing a number of long-term conditions.”
As of March 2023, over 1,600 professionals have been recruited to these new posts across Greater Manchester and this number continues to grow. Just under a third (479) are clinical pharmacists or pharmacy technicians, providing expert advice on medicines to patients who may have started a new medicine or need a medicine review. Many of the new recruits are care coordinators (15%) who help to make sure things run as smoothly as possible for patients with a long-term health condition or those who receive care from different health services.
These new roles in general practice are being highlighted in “Who’s who in your GP practice” – a campaign from NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care (NHS GM) that launched this week. It features videos of health professionals explaining their role and how they can support patients, alongside posters and social media posts with a photo and a short explanation. Some of those who feature in the campaign have spoken out to give their support.
Gill Cross, advanced clinical practitioner (Tower Healthcare in Bury), who was filmed as part of the campaign, explains why it matters: “Patients usually know about the role of a GP and what they do. But they may be less familiar with other health professionals who are increasingly part of the GP practice team. I think it’s really important that we raise awareness, so patients know what to expect when they’re offered an appointment. As an Advanced Clinical Practitioner, I have a similar workload to a GP but tend to see the less complex patients.”
Alice So, advanced nurse practitioner (Brooklands Medical Practice in Manchester), said: “Lots of people don’t realise that they don’t always need to see a GP when they contact their practice. Another health professional can be the best person to help with your particular health problem. As an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, I see patients with a range of different problems and health concerns and can prescribe medication, or make a referral for further investigations, if needed.”
Fiona Deighan, first contact physiotherapy practitioner (Hindley Primary Care Network in Wigan), said: “Many of those who contact their GP practice are struggling with pain in muscles or joints. So it’s great that more and more people can now see a physiotherapist straight away, and get the right advice at the right time, without onward referral.”