About our service
Our aim is to work in partnership with GPs, CCGs and NHS England across the country, helping to improve access for patients and reduce the increasing demands on GP practices.
How does it work?
Patients call their local GP surgery as normal. Any patients with a clear requirement for a face-to-face appointment – for example, vaccinations or examinations – are booked in directly.
However, the majority of patients calling for a GP appointment can be managed over the phone. These patients are given a timed slot for a call back with a qualified Practice Assist GP, who will try to resolve their problems remotely. If required, our clinician will then make any necessary onward referrals, either to the patient's practice, or to other services.
The process can be modified according to the needs of each individual practice; they are in control of which patients are booked for telephone consultations.
Our appointment system doesn’t have many front line telephone appointments. How can this service help us?
Practice Assist conducts telephone consultations on your behalf, externally from the practice. This means you get additional clinical capacity to meet patients’ needs at no extra effort.
We can help with on-the-day demand, overflow issues and particularly busy periods; reception staff at client practices have found this flexibility a very useful additional resource to routine booked clinics.
Care UK has a long history of partnering the NHS with telephone-based consultation and, as a result, our systems and procedures have exceptional built-in resilience.
How do we reserve slots for face-to-face appointments?
Practice Assist GPs have access to the practice clinical system, as any locum would, enabling them to reserve slots in the same way as your reception.
During the mobilisation phase, the number of reserved face-to-face appointments needed each day is calculated and agreed between our Hub and the practice.
How does Practice Assist manage prescriptions, home visits, language barriers, complex cases, data security and urgent calls?
The majority of prescriptions and medication can be processed by Practice Assist without involving the practice.
We advise patients to follow normal practice processes for requesting repeat prescriptions. Any urgent medications or newly generated scripts can be issued via the Electronic Prescribing Service (EPS) direct to pharmacies.
Where practices do not have EPS installed, we can arrange prescriptions to be sent to pharmacies or to the practice for collection.
We adhere to all national guidance around safe and appropriate prescribing and we work with individual practices to understand local variations.
If required, home visits are conducted by practice GPs.
Home visit requests are processed by practice staff, so if Practice Assist GPs feel a home visit is necessary, practice GPs are notified to assess the patient.
We do not promise any home visits and leave this decision to the discretion of the practice GPs.
Patients with language barriers are usually booked in for a direct, face-to-face appointment or a telephone appointment with Language Line (interpreter services) for a practice GP to assess. They might also nominate someone to speak for them and specifically request a telephone appointment in order to benefit from the system.
Complex patients and/or those requiring continuity of care
Through regular audits we have identified certain patients and conditions that would most benefit from being booked for a direct, face-to-face appointment rather than a telephone appointment, such as children under the age of two years. This results in a more efficient service for the practice.
We will also enable continuity of care by adding and responding to specific alerts in patient notes, which can be added by practice staff, enabling patients to bypass our Hub telephone system if needed. Patients have the option of opting out of our service if they wish, but very few do as they value the improved ease of access.
Data security and information governance
We have a very secure information governance agreement in place that both Care UK and the practice sign. This agreement complies with both Caldicott Guidelines and the Data Protection Act and we take active steps to ensure no breaches of data security should ever occur.
Urgent calls are taken seriously and any patient thought to be in danger will be booked in to speak with a practice GP immediately. We have a secure process for flagging any ‘urgent’ calls, in which we train the practice teams.
We also encourage frequent communication between our Hub and the practice and we have weekly calls to ensure clinical safety. On average, one call in every 200 to a practice is of a truly urgent nature.
Are Practice Assist GP edits identifiable in patient notes?
Yes, Practice Assist GPs can be identified in patient notes – just as you would expect with any visiting GP.
Everything is done in real time with no additional administrative burden on the practice team.
Can you help us with paperwork/administration/QOF?
Additional services, such as support with QOF and CQC, are available on request. Contact us for additional information.
How can you ensure quality and safety of consultations?
Our service is fully CQC registered and compliant.
All of our consultations are voice recorded and we have a strong clinical governance system in place.
Who undertakes consultation calls?
Patients are given a specific time for a call back with a qualified Practice Assist GP, who will try to resolve their problems remotely. If required, our GP will then make any necessary onward referrals, either to the patient's practice, or to other services.
How long does it take to implement?
The mobilisation plan can take anywhere between four and 12 weeks, depending on the size of the practice and the scope of the service requested.
What are the next steps?
First, you need to identify which aspects of Practice Assist you could benefit from. This could be a set number of calls, a day or two a week, or full time support with additional resources.
Our team is ready to answer any questions. Contact us.