Your GP practice is here for you
GP practices across the Black Country and West Birmingham are working differently to offer patient appointments. With demand for primary care services increasing and the need to have increased infection control measures in place, we need to do things in a new way.
How are GP practices working now?
All appointments are being triaged. This gives you the chance to explain what is wrong and we can then ensure you have an appointment with the most appropriate person and to help those with the greatest need get seen first.
What is triage?
Triage is usually conducted by a trained member of the practice team who will ask you a number of questions in order to assess you and decide the most appropriate type of appointment for you, this might be:
- to be seen in person (face to face)
- a phone consultation
- a video consultation
- self-care or help from a community pharmacy or optician.
Information on the types of appointments is available to read here.
Your GP practice team
Many GP practices now include a range of health professionals who can diagnose and treat health conditions. This ensures that you see the right person at the right time.
If it is most appropriate for you to see a doctor, you will be offered an appointment with a GP. However, the GP isn’t always the best person for you to see.
You can read more about the different people that make up our general practice teams in the sections below.
Some roles are new and so may be unfamiliar. Some roles will be recruited throughout 2021/22.
Practice nurses are qualified nurses who like GPs are involved in almost every aspect of patient care and treatment. They will look after patients with long-term diseases such as asthma and diabetes, offer health screening, and also hold specialised clinics such as travel immunisations, baby immunisations, wound care, and women’s health for smear tests and contraception advice.
Health care assistants (HCAs) work alongside the Practice Nurse to assist with blood pressure and new patient checks, health promotion, urinalysis, weight and height recording. You may also see a HCAs for certain vaccines, for example your flu vaccine.
A Physician Associate (PA) is a healthcare professional who, while not a doctor, works under the supervision of a doctor to deliver care and treatment with the general practice team. Physician associates are medically trained generalists capable of working with patients across a wide variety of conditions. This means they can diagnose and treat adults and children with a range of clinical problems.
A GP Registrar is a fully qualified medical doctor, who is undertaking advanced training under the supervision of a practice GP to specialise in General Practice.
A Practice Based Pharmacist is a clinical pharmacist who provides expert advice around medicines. If a condition needs diagnosing, you will usually see a GP first, who may then refer you to a practice nurse or a practice pharmacist. You may see a Practice Based Pharmacist for one of the following reasons:
- If you have a condition such as asthma, type 2 diabetes, arthritis or high blood pressure, a practice pharmacist can discuss the medicines you’re taking to make sure they’re working for you. They can also help you with lifestyle changes to help you manage your condition better.
- If you are experiencing side effects from your medicines, you can discuss these with a practice pharmacist who will work with you to find a solution, such as changing your medicine or the dosage.
- If you are taking several different medicines, or taking medicines over a long period of time. The practice pharmacist can help make sure they are working well together and will do a regular review to discuss how they are working for you.
- If your medicines have been changed after a stay in hospital, the practice pharmacist can help explain these changes and ensure you get the maximum benefit from these medicines.
You may also see a practice pharmacist instead of a GP if you are suffering from a common illness such as a cold, hay fever, diarrhoea or an eye infection. The pharmacist may be able to prescribe medicines to treat your condition.
You will always be referred to a GP, or another health professional if there is a need.
Paramedics are currently working within some GP practices to help ease pressure on GPs and the wider practice team. Paramedics can assess, examine, treat and manage patients of all age ranges with a variety of acute illnesses – those that come on quickly, from coughs, and injuries such as broken bones, to more serious conditions such asthma attacks and heart attacks – as well as chronic conditions, which are long-lasting, like arthritis and diabetes.
Physiotherapists are experts in muscle and joint conditions, also known as musculoskeletal. You may be referred to a Physiotherapists working in or with your practice to provide you with an expert diagnosis and treatment if you are experiencing these types of conditions.
Health Coaches work alongside GPs and other health professionals to educate patients on diet and lifestyle. They work with patients to help them change their behaviour, so they can make healthcare choices based on what matters to them and support them to become more active in their health and care.
Social prescribing involves helping patients to improve their health, wellbeing and welfare by connecting them to community services which might be run by the council or a local charity. For example, signposting people who have been diagnosed with dementia to local dementia support groups. In general practice, social prescribers can take the time to talk to patients about what matters to them and support them to find suitable activities that are a better alternative to medication. They connect people to community groups and services for practical and emotional support.
It is often more appropriate for patients with mental health needs to see a skilled professional, specially trained in mental health rather than a GP, therefore patients may be referred to a Mental Health Practitioner rather than other member of the practice team.
Where else can I get help?
Visit nhs.uk for advice on common symptoms and a list of local services or speak to, or:
Help us to help you
Our health services are under enormous pressure, but we are open and here if needed.
Local GPs are seeing as many patients as before the COVID-19 pandemic but demand for services has increased.
You can help us and help yourself by making sure you get the right care, in the right place, at the right time appropriate for your needs.
- Use your local pharmacy for advice and over the counter treatment
- Try calling the practice later in the day if you don’t need an urgent appointment
- Please use online services where possible to keep phone lines clear
- Ensure you attend your appointment or cancel it if no longer required
- Get vaccinated to reduce pressure on services from COVID/flu.
Download the NHS App
The NHS App offers access to health advice and allows you to book an appointment at some practices.
Watch these videos to learn how to access a GP practice and get the best possible care safely and quickly, and hear from a local GP about GP services open and here for you.