We know primary healthcare is under pressure. And we also know, at least anecdotally, that GPs are seeing patients who could have been assisted in other ways, perhaps by a pharmacist or a nurse. But how does a practice prove that some appointments are unnecessary, and by what proportion?
Lea Valley Health Federation Proves the Case
One federation comprising eight practices – Lea Valley Health, in Hertfordshire – did just this by conducting a demand audit among patients visiting not just the practices, but the minor injury units and community pharmacies within its area.
The startling results have paved the way for a restructure of primary care in the locality, to improve efficiency, save costs and – most importantly – improve patient care.
And a major part in this redesign is being played by the FootFall websites, commissioned by the federation and now being rolled out across the practices.
Richard Moore is the business manager of Lea Valley Health, which serves a population of 75,500.
“We knew that many appointments were being taken up by patients who didn’t really need to be seen by a doctor. Our clinical lead in the locality could see that the demand was greater than reflected in our funding, but we wanted to demonstrate the extent of this.”
The survey had a fantastic uptake – some 10,000 responses capturing the clinicians’ and patients’ views; 76% of those asked agreed to take part.
Crucially the results revealed that nearly a quarter – 24% – of all GP consultations could be managed by a suitable appropriate pathway, one of which would be the FootFall websites.
The survey also revealed 79% of patients did not seek self-help or advice for their condition, and of those only 2% did so using the surgery website – another argument for bringing in FootFall, to encourage patients to help themselves, and so take pressure off GPs.
One surprising results was the split of reception time: 50:50 between appointment-related demand and non-appointment related demand. Demand here can be alleviated by encouraging patients to self-help, again through the introduction of FootFall.
Richard said: “The results were what we needed to make the necessary changes. Our federation was set up in 2014, but until recently we hadn’t gone very far in terms of working together and sharing best practice. The results of the survey have really been the catalyst for us to make changes, which include the introduction of FootFall.”
The challenge now for Lea Valley Health is to encourage patients to use FootFall.
Said Richard: “We need to educate patients, otherwise we won’t see the benefits. To help with this, we applied for funding from the Eastern Academic Health Science Network, and we needed the evidence of the survey to back our application. We were given funding for a one-year post for a locality engagement officer, who has now started and whose task is to promote FootFall use among patients.”
It is too early to ascertain how much difference FootFall is making. But Richard plans to measure the success of all the changes in a year’s time, and prove that innovations like FootFall can improve services for patients and take pressure off practices.
Richard will be speaking at the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC GP & Practice Managers Conference on this topic on Thursday 11 May. Silicon Practice will be holding a FootFall workshop at the same conference. If you are attending this event, we look forward to seeing you.
For more information about FootFall, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.