More than an Extra Pair of Hands
The introduction of the additional roles reimbursement scheme for primary care networks has started to grow capacity in general practice to address the unsustainably high workload that has put so much pressure on GPs.
The scheme brings specialist skills directly into practices. It increases choice for patients, who can be seen quicker and for longer, and allows GPs to focus on people with complex needs.
But that is not all; the advent of additional roles into general practice creates opportunities for developing personalised care and tackling inequalities. In the pandemic, the social prescribing link worker role has come into its own connecting people with essential community services and supporting psychological and social needs.
Several of the new roles bring knowledge and experience of providing personalised care responsive to the needs of individual patients. Allied professionals such as first contact physiotherapists, podiatrists and dieticians help create integrated and tailored care programmes for patients through multidisciplinary teams. They provide personalised specialist treatment and can facilitate behavioural change in patients through health education and self-management techniques for long-term conditions, preventing escalation of conditions and reducing hospital admissions.
Care coordinators help people with highly complex needs to manage all their health and care services. Co-ordination can eliminate unnecessary appointments, procedures and tests and patients feel more empowered and actively engaged in their treatment. Personalised care and the use of shared decision making techniques support the move towards people taking more responsibility for their own health and becoming less dependent on general practice.
Covid-19 has highlighted how economic and social disadvantage impacts directly on health and wellbeing. Social prescribers get to know local benefits and debt advice providers, food banks, employment projects and befriending services; and occupational therapists link with housing providers, environmental services, transport providers, schools and employers. By providing community health monitoring, paramedics can connect with sheltered housing schemes for older people and supported housing for people with learning difficulties, or in drug and alcohol recovery, or homeless people. Dieticians can connect with schools and parents’ groups to provide health education or cooking classes, and provide support to weight loss groups. Health and wellbeing coaches link with physical activity providers, cultural and interest groups. The connections can grow and be strengthened with understanding of the wider social and economic issues that create barriers to people’s health and wellbeing.
PCC has training for social prescribers, care coordinators and health coaches and runs workshops to support the introduction of new roles in general practice and primary care networks. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org