Yorkshire Health Partners (YHP), a federation of independent partner-led GP practices and a local partner of Humber Coast & Vale sustainability and transformation partnership (STP), aims to improve access to primary care services for patients across the East Riding of Yorkshire. It comprises 11 local member practices, and growing, across East Yorkshire, with a combined patient list in excess of 133,000 supported by 50 GPs.
As part of YHPs’ commitment to making it easier for patients to access GP appointments, the team collaborated with Humber Coast & Vale STP to run a pilot programme to assess the impact of using online consultation platform, Engage Consult, as the first point of contact for care homes to general practice.
As Primary Care Networks (PCNs) embed Directed Enhanced Services (DES), there are obligations to deliver new service specifications, and the development of online services is a national priority. “The pilot programme supported the delivery of the PCN service specification of enhanced health in care homes while complimenting the NHS Long Term Plan of key digital advances in primary care,” explains Alison Tite, general manager at YHP.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire, has a high proportion of care homes to practices. As a result, GP practices in the area received a disproportionately high number of calls from the care homes compared to other areas, creating significant pressure on practices and their staff, and inefficiencies for care homes and residents.
“To support digital enablement in primary care, a different way of working was needed. GP surgeries were under a significant amount of pressure from the number of care homes, and in some cases, GP practices closed their lists to new patients,” said Alison at YHP.
To tackle these issues, establishing a single point of contact for care homes was needed, whilst also supporting digital enablement for care homes. The aim of the pilot programme was to identify whether a remote resource could alleviate the day-to-day pressures for local practices, by dealing with routine administration and clinical requests generated by care homes. Alison continues, “Care homes often spent considerable time on the phone trying to reach GP surgeries. These delays took up valuable time that staff could be spending with residents and led to complexities in accessing services.”
The pilot programme also sought to address the recruitment and retention challenges of clinical staff in the area. “Nationwide recruitment and retention issues in general practice, and largely due to workload pressure, and YHP required a solution to help overcome this issue, as well as improving efficiencies and access,” adds Alison.
Within a limited timeframe, online and video consultation platform Engage Consult was fully implemented. “Initially, two GP practices and ten care homes participated in the programme, and as positive results quickly surfaced, this increased to all six GP practices and 27 care home homes (supporting 595 residents) in just three months,” confirms Alison.
Administration and clinical staff at YHP manage incoming requests logged online by care homes using Engage Consult to streamline processes. Initial actions include dealing with admin queries, assigning to a paramedic, or assigning to a YHP clinician for telephone or online video consultation if necessary. Secondary steps involve assigning to a GP practice if a home visit is required, or referral to the community team, emergency service, frailty team, or secondary care.
Alison provides greater insight, “Our service team use Engage Consult to access the online request which has a direct interface with the patient’s medical record directly through the practice clinical system. This is updated in real-time with full access to the patient’s record, enabling the clinical team to deal with requests end-to-end.”