Care Navigation

What is it?

Care Navigating is a way of dealing with appointment requests to help you to see the right person, to provide the right care, in the right place, as soon as possible.

Why are you doing this?

Seeing a doctor is not always the most appropriate thing for patients to do and because there is a national shortage of GPs we hope that by directing some people away from GP appointments those people who really need to see a GP can be seen more quickly.

We also think it will give you more choice, for example, not everyone knows that you don’t have to come to your own GP for a smear; or that you can go the pharmacy for some minor ailments and at a time that suits you.

How does it work?

When you ring the surgery for an appointment a trained receptionist, who must abide to a strict code of patient confidentiality, will ask you some questions to give you an appointment with the right person. This is often not a doctor and could be a nurse or clinical pharmacist, or even an organisation outside the surgery.

What sort of organisations?

At the moment we can care navigate to other agencies such as local pharmacies, opticians, Citizens Advice (Healthier and Wealthier Service), the Wellbeing for Life Service, sexual health services and Stop Smoking County Durham.

Our doctors often see patients who need help with social problems (e.g. housing, debt etc.) and refer them to the Healthier and Wealthier Service; this could have been done via reception staff and saved a GP appointment. This would also be more convenient for patients and can mean patients would get the help they need more quickly.

Will I have to pay for my medication from the pharmacy or optician?

If you don’t usually pay for your prescriptions you can still get some medication at the pharmacy for free as part of the pharmacy minor ailment scheme. Any medication you need from the optician will have to be paid for, although this medication usually costs less than a prescription charge.

What if I don’t want to say what I want to see the doctor about?

You don’t have to. For routine appointments the receptionist will always ask you but you can, of course, choose not to discuss this with anyone other than the doctor.

The exception is where you ask for an emergency appointment slot; in this case our policy has not changed and receptionists are not allowed to give you an appointment without telling the clinician what it is for.

Is this clinical triaging?

No, the receptionists aren’t clinicians.