General practice leaders across Derby and Derbyshire are today encouraging patients to ask about appointments with staff other than doctors when they call to book a consultation.
Many practices have experts ranging from nurses and physiotherapists to dietitians and clinical pharmacists, who can see patients without a GP referral and therefore provide advice more quickly.
Derbyshire GPs have been embracing new approaches to see and help more people, increasing the number of appointments compared with a year ago, and are keen for patients to understand the advantages of seeing someone other than a doctor.
Dr Drew Smith, a partner at Wilson St Surgery in Derby, said many patients needlessly wait to see a doctor for health concerns that could be dealt with more quickly and often more effectively by someone else: "It's very common for me to meet with a patient, virtually or in person, and quickly realise that they should be speaking with one of our clinical pharmacists, an Advanced Clinical Practitioner, or one of the nurses.
"These members of the wider clinical team can usually see someone more quickly and can often help the patient more quickly. As a GP, I have a lot of knowledge about managing and treating illness in general, but my colleagues often have more specialist knowledge than me within specific areas.
"Like other areas of the healthcare service, General Practice have high demand for appointments and we know it's often difficult to get an appointment with a doctor because we have to prioritise the most urgent cases, such as possible cancer symptoms or signs or heart disease and diabetes, whereas doctors we are best placed to meet the patient’s needs. Our reception team do a great job of spotting when a patient can be helped by someone else, and this is going to be the best option.
"Plus patients can ask about other options. Asking for an appointment with a nurse or pharmacist or an advanced clinical practitioner can get you seen more quickly."
At Hannage Brook practice in the Derbyshire Dales town of Wirksworth, Dr Penny Blackwell said she had had excellent feedback from patients who were able to access care and advice more quickly through seeing the nursing team for long-term condition management.
"Honestly, our nursing team really are outstanding, especially for these long-term conditions. They have expertise in specific areas that we as GPs lean on, and I know that for many patients the best option is to go straight to the nurses.
"Patients sing their praises, and it means that I can focus my attention on those patients who need my skills. We're a base for many different services, podiatry, pharmacist and pharmacy technician and first contact physiotherapy in particular, and you don't always need a doctor to refer you to those services.
"Our reception team know what services we have and are trained specifically to identify when a patient can be go directly to them without a doctor getting involved. That gets the patient into the right hands more quickly."
Elspeth Huber is one of four practice nurses working out of Hannage Brook, and is a specialist in working with patients who have diabetes.
"We're all part of a team here, just like at every practice, so it makes sense for patients to come to the right person as quickly as possible. I have a lot of experience in my area, and I know what the others do as well because we are always communicating to ensure patients can rely on us.
"So if I'm treating a patient with diabetes, I can refer someone to podiatry if they need specialist help with their feet, or to our pharmacist for advice on medications. Patients love being able to book appointments with me and the other nurses directly because it gets them the care they need more quickly."
Every practice differs in the specialist roles it provides, so patients should check their local practice website or ask about the best person to see when making a booking online or by phone.
The Joined Up Care Derbyshire website has a full list of the roles across general practice.