General practice guidance from NHS England focuses on using data to manage variation in demand and capacity

NHS England has published new guidance for primary care, focusing on helping general practice teams to use data in understanding and managing variations in demand and capacity.

The guidance focuses on building data collection and data analysis capabilities, such as for demand and capacity, with an aim to support challenges around peak demand times on the phone, appointment management, and a “rising queue of non-urgent appointments”.

Examples given of improvements made by practices as a result of measuring their demand and capacity include the introduction of “a wider range of options for pre-bookable appointments” and the setting up of group appointments for specific issues, resulting in a reduction in the amount of unmet demand from 39 to 9 appointments per day, on average.

From ‘getting started’ with recommendations to manage demand and capacity through looking at areas such as the timing of long-term condition recall against capacity, and ensuring care navigation to the right appointments; through to more detailed advice on “a quality improvement approach” to managing demand and capacity; the guidance offers a variety of insights, models, approaches, and examples for practices.

As well as general information and guidance, NHS England shares its “digital triage demand calculator” in Excel format, prompting teams to enter their practice data to “estimate the number of sessions and type of health care professionals required to meet the need expressed to your practice”. The spreadsheet also includes a “suggestion” tab, which looks at ways of evening out workload across the week.

To read the guidance in full, or to make use of the digital triage demand calculator, please click here.

In related news, a letter from Dr Amanda Doyle, national director of primary care and community services at NHS England, and Ed Garratt, chief executive of NHS Suffolk and North Essex ICB to integrated care boards, has proposed plans to test new ways of working to ‘optimise the general practice operating model’ across urgent and proactive care services and further deliver on the Fuller Stocktake vision.

We also recently caught up with Helen Atherton, professor in primary care research at the University of Southampton, to talk about her research findings and insights into digital in primary care.