GP PRACTICES in south Worcestershire are some of the first in the country to introduce a new scheme designed to make sure patients get the best and most appropriate help when visiting their GP surgery.

Each GP practice in south Worcestershire has introduced a Care Navigator, to enhance patients/carers understanding of the different services available to them. The initiative focuses particularly on older people and those living with frailty.

The main aims of the role, are to:

• Free up GP time

• Provide an enhanced service

• Improved patient experience

• Provide a network of local care navigators with an enhanced awareness of resources on offer in the community

• Increase skill set within GP practices

The Care Navigators have attended a training programme delivered by South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in partnership with SW Healthcare - a federation of all of the 32 GP surgeries in South Worcestershire serving over 298,000 patients in the region.

The training focused on a number of key areas to ensure the navigators signpost patients to the most appropriate service either within the practice or provided by community resources and the voluntary care sector.

They have become the first port of call for older people with frailty and their carers, people whose lives are affected by dementia, patients with mobility issues, patients looking for care homes, housebound patients and patients with social problems.

Dr Maggie Keeble, clinical lead for Proactive Care at NHS South Worcestershire CCG, said: “We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to introduce Care Navigators into all of our GP practices, offering a service that greatly improves patient experience.

“We’ve had some very positive feedback from a number of patients, carers and the GP practices and I’d like to thank all the Care Navigators for their hard work and dedication in helping to shape the development of this new role in south Worcestershire.”

South Worcestershire GP practices are among the first in the country to introduce this post, leading the way as frailty will be part of the GP contract in 2017/18 and training for Care Navigation is included in the GP Forward View.

According to NHS Health Education England (HEE), people who provide care navigation build relationships, problem solve and help locate resources, serving as a link between community, health and social services.

They advocate the needs of people, they are enabling and focused on recovery, to strengthen the work of the multidisciplinary team. A key purpose is to ensure patients experience seamless, joined up care and support.

• The idea of a navigator has emerged from different areas over time. The ‘patient navigator’ came from oncology care in the USA, in an attempt to remove barriers to facilitate timely diagnosis, treatment and address inequalities that existed in cancer care. Patient navigators were usually nurses with oncology nursing backgrounds.

• The HEE says most people at some point in their life may benefit from ‘navigation’ through encounters with different health services, agencies and professionals, across an often confusing seascape of health, social and community care. And it’s not just an issue for service users, there is broad consensus from healthcare professionals that such systems can be complex and difficult to navigate.

• Care navigators can play a crucial role in helping people to get the right support, at the right time to help manage a wide range of needs. This may include support with long term conditions, help with finances and signposting to a range of statutory and voluntary sector services, says the HHE.