Staff within the NEAS contact centre will soon be able to make more direct GP appointments for 111 callers - thanks to a £126,000 grant.
The money has been provided by the NHS 111 Futures Fund.
The Direct Booking Service allows 111 operators to triage, reach a clinical disposition and book an appointment from one call.
Upon reaching a GP disposition, a patient's registered practice will be the first service to return on the Directory of Services. If their practice is linked to our NHS 111 service, an electronically booked appointment can be made for a specific time. If their practice is not linked, the patient has to ring the GP practice themselves for an appointment.
We currently refer 15,000 patients every month, or around 500 patients a day, which require a GP appointment within 24 hours.
We have worked with Linthorpe Surgery in Middlesbrough to test direct patient booking appointments with them and will be using our £126,436 grant to connect with more practices using a system called EMIS to allow us to book GP appointments directly; we already have the system in place to book appointments with practices using SystmOne.
As more and more GP practices come on board with our service, we will evaluate the use of the appointment slots and whether patients are following our care advice and attending these appointments.
An evaluation of the service has also been commissioned by NECS and Northumbria University to measure its success.
Tom Howard, Contact Centre manager, said: “We know if we can work with the 400+ GP practices in our region, we could offer a whole system approach to direct GP booked appointments and therefore offer patients a truly seamless, single point of access call, where their health needs are supported.
“At the moment, we have no way of knowing whether a patient has followed our care advice, whether they’ve attended an emergency department unnecessarily or simply done nothing, potentially exacerbating into an emergency condition. This scheme looks to close the gap in provision.
“By supporting patients wherever possible to access their own GP, or their own practice, or at least having an appointment booked for them, there is significantly higher adherence to the care advice offered to the patient, which, in turn, will lead to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction with the service.”