GP Assistant formerly the Medical Assistant Programme

The renamed Medical Assistant programme is now called GP Assistant.

Why do we need a General Practice Assistants Programme?  

Workload was identified by the 2015 BMA survey as the single biggest issue of concern to GPs and their staff.  

The report estimated that around 27 percent of appointments could potentially be avoided if there was more coordinated working between GPs and hospitals, wider use of primary care staff, better use of technology to streamline administrative burdens, and wider system changes.  

Aims & Objectives 

The aim of this programme is to provide a consistent approach to developing foundation skills for the General Practice Assistant role across Barnet & Enfield, led by GP facilitators from the Barnet Training Hub.  

Workload reduction 

As part of the wider team, General Practice Assistants provide a support role, carrying out administrative tasks focusing on supporting General Practitioners in their day-to-day management of patients. The role is specifically aimed at streamlining document workflow, standardising coding, ensuring prompt and appropriate onward actions, and signposting these to appropriate team members with the aim of reducing the administrative burden of GPs to maximise GP consultation time and support the management of vulnerable patients with often higher administrative clinical workload. 

Releasing time for patients  

Evidence suggests that effective adoption of this role has the potential to: 

  • improve patient access and release highly qualified staff to concentrate on treating and managing patients with more complex conditions.  
  • improve patient flow within surgery hours, increasing the time efficiency of appointments, and reduction of waiting times, supporting patient experience  
  • reduce time spent by GPs on managing correspondence by up to 85%  

Workforce resilience, development, and staff retention  

The aim is to develop our primary care non-clinical work force, enable career progression, staff retention and resilience. 

Evidence shows that GP assistants have a positive impact on GP retention and job satisfaction.  

The Programme enables five of the ten High Impact actions to be met: Personal Productivity, Develop the Team, Productive Workflows and Development of QI expertise 

The Barnet and Enfield Training Hubs General Practice Assistant Programme  

Fully funded programme run over 9 sessions involving: 

Introduction to the programme for GP Assistant trainees and GP mentors and Practice Managers 

Medical Terminology training sessions (basic and advanced)  

Followed by half day remote sessions involving large group learning & small group discussions putting learning into practice. 

Between sessions, learners will be expected to carry out workplace-based learning and supervision from a GP mentor. 

As part of the course, the trainees will be expected to carry out a work-place based Quality Improvement project based around the course content. 

Embedding staff and skills into everyday role as part the practice team.  

GP assistants will be trained to help with: 

  • Sorting clinical post and prioritising
  • Extracting and coding relevant information from clinical letters 
  • Independently dealing with all routine clinical post 
  • Arranging appointments, referrals and follow up appointments of patients.
  • Completing basic (non-opinion) forms for the GP to approve and sign, such as insurance forms and mortgage forms. 
  • Helping the GP liaise with outside agencies, for example, arranging for on call doctors to provide advice on the phone, or to arrange admission, allowing the GP to continue with their consultation(s)
  • Supporting the GP practice team with population health monitoring.

Outcomes  

The outcome for the learner on successful completion of the course will be: 

A greater understanding of common medical terminology 

Increased confidence in: 

  • critically appraising clinical letters and digital consultation requests extracting all important information from clinical letters that need coding in patient records and understanding the importance of this for future patient care and QOF targets. 
  • identifying those letters requiring further input and signposting them to the appropriate team member 
  • arranging appropriate onward referrals, tests and follow up appointments. 
  • have increased awareness of BAR global & other standard referral letter templates as well as the appropriate use of resilience letters. 
  • evaluation of digital consultation requests understanding and identifying more urgent referrals and triaging them to appropriate team members/appointments. 

An idea of how the role may be embedded into practice including designing a workflow triage protocol and/or digital consultation requests triage protocol that can be adapted and agreed for use in their own practice. 

Understand the importance of communication, support, supervision and auditing when any new process is rolled out. 

Platform for role/career progression, increased job satisfaction and workforce retention 

The outcome for each practice would be to release time for patient facing clinical contact.  This will depend on a range of factors including patient’s needs, existing skill mix, administrative needs of the individual practice as well as time and financial resources to invest in work-based learning, mentorship, and ongoing supervision.  

The outcome for the wider primary care network the vision would be to consider PCN or Federation wide working at scale. Many GP practices are now working in practice groups or federations. We are seeing that these can have benefits for patients, practices, and the wider system.   By standardising workflow processes this can lead to Economies of scale: practices can create common policies and procedures once, sharing the work between all members. Quality improvement: some federations are becoming a focus for sharing professional development, clinical governance, and service improvement, and are building in-house expertise to benefit all practices.  

We have built on the knowledge from the Medical Assistant programme (see the attached MA Programme report 2018-19) to run our 2021 cohort this year with 15 participants each from Enfield and Barnet and plan to deliver it again in 2022.

For any more information or queries on the programme please contact Kyra Rowlatt – kyra.rowlatt@nhs.net