The funding will help trial different ways of offering better access to GP services for thousands of patients. These include more urgent same day visits, email consultations and better use of websites to provide health advice.
Across the county, GPs have been working in partnership via ‘federations’ to develop these various initiatives, with the aim of improving healthcare and delivering more care in the community.
The funding – which forms part of the successful Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund bid – means that four pilot projects in Oxfordshire can be tested over the coming year. OCCG supported each bid as part of its priority to play a bigger role in developing local GP services.
At the end of the year, the pilot projects will be evaluated and opportunities analysed by GPs and commissioners before decisions are taken on whether to continue the services and potentially expand them so that they are available county-wide.
The pilot projects include:
- Neighbourhood Access Hubs.
- Home Visiting Teams.
- Care Navigators.
- Online project offering Email Consultations and a Local Health Website.
Neighbourhood Access Hubs
Patients who need a same day urgent appointment with a GP or nurse, but are unable to get one at their GP practice, will be offered one at a local healthcare facility with a local GP or nurse who will also have access to their medical records. This will enable practices to offer more twenty minute appointments to patients with more complex conditions.
This pilot will run initially in Banbury, Bicester, Witney and Wantage and their surrounding villages before being expanded to other areas around the county.
In the north of the county, there are also plans to create Skype-type links to care and nursing homes and even to patients’ homes.
Home Visiting Support Teams
These teams will respond to requests for urgent same day home visits from older patients, or patients with more severe conditions or their carers. Patients will be seen by emergency care practitioners promptly to identify early support for patients. This pilot will be run in Banbury, Bicester, Faringdon, Witney and Oxford.
GP practices in Oxford will work with staff in community health services and social care to offer better, joined up care for the two per cent of patients registered with city practices with the most complex conditions. Care Navigators will co-ordinate support for these patients and liaise with their GPs, families and carers, either in practices or in patients’ homes to ensure care is proactive. This pilot will run in all GP practices in Oxford. There will be a similar care navigator pilot running in Banbury, Bicester, Witney and Wantage.
- Email Consultations
GPs in two practices in Abingdon: The Abingdon and Malthouse Surgeries, will offer patients urgent appointments by email outside of practice opening hours, including: early morning, early evening and Saturday mornings. Alongside the new urgent service outside of opening hours, they will introduce a routine in hours email consultation service.
The email consultation pilot has the potential to be expanded to other practices.
- Local Health Website
The Abingdon and Malthouse surgeries will develop a website with health advice to enable people to gain a greater understanding of how they can look after themselves with healthy life-style choices, or manage their care if they have a complex condition. The website will be a localised site and will include self-help guides for managing chronic conditions, a symptom checker and a comprehensive directory signposting people to local support groups and services.
Extra support will be offered by a care navigator who will be available in each Abingdon practice to develop patients’ understanding of their health condition and steer them to support services available locally in the community.
Once the website has been tested it will be made available across the county.
The pilot projects target populations in the county that need greater health care support, to respond to demand for more out of hospital urgent care and to offer further options for patients to get health care advice and take greater responsibility for managing their care.
Dr Joe McManners, Clinical Chair at OCCG, said; ‘We welcome this national recognition of our ambition in Oxfordshire to be at the forefront of developing health services for the benefit of our patients. The funding also provides some much needed extra resource for primary care. We are committed to working with and supporting clinicians and partners locally to help patients get early access to health advice. These initiatives will offer local patients greater flexibility and easier access to health care advice and appointments. We will be working with GPs locally to monitor the success of these projects and to investigate opportunities to develop and share the best across the county.’
The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund has been running since 2013 to help improve access to general practice and stimulate innovative ways of providing primary care services nationally.