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Healthcare Navigators

What are Healthcare Navigators?

GP practices in South Worcestershire are launching a new scheme to help support and guide patients to access the most appropriate service.

This scheme is called Healthcare Navigation. Healthcare Navigators are GP receptionists and administration staff who have been given specialist training in order to help direct patients to the most appropriate person to deal with their needs.

“General practice is facing an increasing number of patients with complex and long-term conditions, who need help from a variety of health and social care professionals. These patients still rely on their GP as a first point of contact, but we recognised that sometimes it would be more appropriate for them to access other services directly.

Health care navigation offers an excellent solution. This involves training front line, non-clinical practice staff to provide patients with information about local health and well being services, inside and outside primary care.

Our reception staff members are a natural fit for the role, as they have well-established relationships with patients and are the first point of interaction with the patient.

When a patient calls or visits, the care navigator asks them why they need to see a GP. Without being intrusive or offering clinical advice, they discuss the patient’s needs and, where appropriate, help them to access other services directly. Importantly, if the patient feels they still require a GP appointment they are supported to arrange one. The Healthcare Navigators are bound by a confidentiality agreement so patients should feel comfortable to discuss the basic details relating to their situation.

This new way of working will allow us to offer choice to patients, while educating them on the range of specialist services available locally to give them the right care more quickly. In turn, this will lead to more GP appointments for patients who require them.”

Dr Ameet Deshpande, Lead GP for HCN in South Worcestershire
GP Principal
Malvern Health Centre

Why are Healthcare Navigators being introduced?

Healthcare navigation is a tried and tested model of care that improves access to primary care services for patients and reduces GP pressures all in one. It allows front line staff to provide patients with more information about local health and wellbeing services, both within and outside of primary care, in a safe, effective way. Healthcare navigation offers patients choice on how to access the most appropriate service first, which is not always the GP. It means that patients will find it easier to get a GP appointment when they need one.

When a patient contacts the practice, the healthcare navigator will ask for a brief outline of the problem so they can identify the patient’s need. This will allow the healthcare navigator to refer to information about services in the practice, other NHS providers and the wider care and support sector. Where appropriate, they will direct the patient to these services. Their goal is to ensure that patients get the right care at the right time in the right place with the right outcome.

For example, when a patient presents with symptoms that would be better dealt with by another service such as a pharmacist or nurse, patients can be confidently offered these choices, allowing them to go straight to the service which best meets their health and wellbeing needs. Healthcare navigation will support practices and patients to make the best use of valuable NHS resources.

If a patient does not want to give a brief outline of their problem, they are not obliged to do so, however by doing so; Healthcare Navigators can make sure that those people who really need to see a GP can see them as soon as possible.

Patients had their say

A patient questionnaire that has been completed recently on our local population demonstrated that 69% of patients would be very happy/happy/fine discussing their problem with a trained Healthcare Navigator first.  It also has shown that there is a lack of awareness of the many services available locally that might be an alternative option to seeing a GP.  These other services often have more time to spend and have in depth expertise in their area of specialism.

To find out how your practice is implementing this scheme, visit your practice’s website.

Download Our Healthcare Navigator Posters Here:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why does the Healthcare Navigator ask me what’s wrong?

It is not a case of the Healthcare Navigators being nosy! The Healthcare Navigator staff are members of the practice team and it has been agreed they should ask patients 'why they need to be seen'. The team are trained to ask certain questions in order to ensure that you receive:
  • The most appropriate care
  • From the most appropriate person
  • At the most appropriate time.

Healthcare Navigators are asked by the Doctors at the practice to collect brief information from patients:
  • To ensure that all patients receive the appropriate level of care
  • To direct patients to see the most appropriate person to meet their needs.

Why does the Healthcare Navigator need to know why I want an appointment?

This is because they have a number of alternative types of appointments available to them, and they need to offer you the most appropriate appointment to deal with your problem.  The most appropriate appointment may be with the GP for example, or perhaps with another member of the practice team.

Sometimes a longer appointment is needed for certain lengthy procedures, and also some clinics are only held on certain days due to practice staff availability.

Why are we asked to make an appointment to see a doctor for certain repeat medications?

Regular and careful monitoring of all prescribed medicines is essential, for example, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, hormone replacement therapy and oral contraception.