Primary Care News

South West London ICB shares how digital triage improves primary care access

South West London integrated care board has shared how a digtal system is being used at a practice in Kingston to triage patients.

Holmwood Corner Surgery in Kingston launched an online triage service in May 2022, with an aim to support patients choose the best option that suits them when accessing the practice; for example, whether to request an appointment, follow-up on test results or request a copy of their notes.

The practice noted that in one month where 2,800 queries were received through the system, more than one third were resolved without the need for an appointment.

Dr Annette Pautz, Kingston GP, commented on the project: “The clinically designed system has proven incredibly useful for both patients and the practice, adding that it helps GPs ‘work smarter’, prioritising those who need more urgent care, while still reacting quickly to simple requests such as repeat prescriptions.

“All requests are viewed by experienced staff, with the support of a dedicated GP who will be triaging patients based on the information they provided as well as over the phone. This means patients can be confident that troubling symptoms will be picked up. For instance patients can be signposted to other members of staff, like pharmacists or social prescribers, if appropriate, leaving our appointment slots open for those needing to be seen more urgently. This also frees up our GPs and has been received very well by our patients. For example, someone with a minor condition doesn’t need to be re-seen.”

Last week, HTN shared an NHS England support offer that focuses on improving telephone journeys in general practice. Here, the aim is to support practices and PCNs in choosing, purchasing and optimising the use of advanced cloud-based telephony. The guidance covers the functionality offered; the use of call data to make improvements with four key metrics outlined; aligning handling capacity with demand; making continuous improvements to telephone journeys; and scaling telephony.

In August, we chaired a panel discussion on digital primary care, where we welcomed Nikki Mallinder (director of primary care at Surrey Heartlands ICS); Dr Paul Wright, (GP, deputy clinical director/IT clinical lead at NHS Greater Manchester and CCIO at Manchester and Trafford Local Care Organisation); Jamie Innes (product director at Inhealthcare); and Dr Osman Bhatti (GP and CCIO at North East London ICB). The panel shared their experiences in digital primary care, with focus on managing access and demand; the management of long-term conditions; supporting the workforce digitally; and their hopes for the future.