Patients in the Taff Ely area are being offered a choice of services when they ring their GP surgery to ask for an appointment.

Reception staff in seven surgeries have been trained to become care navigators which means they can point patients in the direction of the best healthcare professional and community service to help with their needs.

The new way of working was launched six months ago and has already made a positive impact with good feedback from patients, many of whom are receiving advice or treatment quicker.

Primary Care Development Manager Janet Kelland said, “It’s been an excellent start, we’re only six months in and the benefits of working differently are already being seen by getting patients to see the right person at the right time in the right place.

“People always assume that they need to see a GP but now they are understanding that if they have an eye problem for example it’s far better to see an optician. It saves time and they gain advice and treatment at the earliest opportunity.

“We know from practices that it’s easing some of the pressure. Primary care is not just about GP practices but about all health care services working together in the community.”

Care navigators have been specially trained to ask patients to explain why they need to make an appointment when they ring the surgery. If it’s appropriate they can then suggest other services that could help patients better such as local opticians, community pharmacists, dentists, mental health support, Department for Work and Pensions, or the local authority.

Callers can still choose to see a doctor but the care navigator might suggest they see someone else that could help them better and provide the right support and care in the first instance. This in turn saves time for the patient and frees up appointments for others who need to see the GP.

At Old School Surgery in Pontyclun, care navigators are signposting around five patients every day to other services.

Care navigator Kimberly Hughes said, “It’s worked really well in our surgery, feedback from our patients has been good and it’s been a very positive experience.

“We’ve all had training so we can work out who is the best professional to see to help you with your problem and this may not always be the GP.

“We know some people don’t like explaining why they need their appointment but we’re here to make sure they see the best person as quickly as possible within the primary care team.

”I recently signposted a patient with chicken pox directly to the local pharmacist as there was a long wait for a GP appointment. I also gave them a Common Ailment Scheme leaflet and told them to come back if they needed anything else but there was no need because they were treated successfully at the pharmacy.”

There are seven surgeries with care navigators in the Taff Ely area at;

  • Old School Surgery, Pontyclun
  • Parc Canol, Church Village
  • Taffs Well Medical Centre
  • Taff Vale Practice, Rhydyfelin
  • Ash Grove Surgery, Pontypridd
  • Eglyws Bach Surgery, Pontypridd
  • New Park Surgery, Talbot Green

The main navigations from surgeries have been to the local optician, dentist, sexual health clinic and the pharmacy for the common ailments service. This service offers patients access to free NHS advice and treatment for 26 common conditions such as acne, hay fever, sore throat, teething, or constipation.

Georgia Clissold-Gough, who also works as a care navigator at Old School Surgery, said, “It’s important to remember that care navigation is not about denying appointments, staff give a choice and it’s up to the patient whether they accept that choice or not.

“It’s starting to change the way people think and it’s great to be able to give alternatives that can help rather than just saying sorry we don’t have any appointments left.

“It makes you feel satisfied that you’ve done everything you can for the patients and really helped someone.”

The care navigators are being highlighted as part of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board’s #YourLocalTeam campaign which aims to raise awareness of the range of professionals in the community who can help patients without the need to go to the GP.

To find out more visit cwmtafmorgannwg.wales or follow #YourLocalTeam on social media.

*For further information please contact Alison Watkins on 07854 386054 or email [email protected]

Patients offered more choice thanks to care navigation service