GPs were today urged to be more proactive in engaging with social care providers following news that surgeries are at breaking point due to increasing demand and dwindling resources.
Home Group, which provides social care services to 30,000 people across the UK, has called for better integration between health and social care in order to reduce patient numbers at GP practices.
Home Group pointed to pilot projects in Norfolk basing support navigators, who can offer support and referrals to patients with non-medical needs, in GP surgeries as an example of integration that improves patient welfare, cuts patient waiting times to visit their family GP and reduces the burden on the taxpayer.
Steve Parker, director of health and social care for Home Group, said: “As GP practices are forced to close and patient numbers increase, GPs face a crisis where they are unable to meet the needs of all their patients. We have to look to more innovative ways to cut the volume of appointments by helping patients in practical ways as well as medical.
“Providers like Home Group are helping reduce patient numbers by identifying the underlying issues which cause unnecessary repeat visits and supporting people outside of practices, freeing up appointments for those with purely health-related needs.
“Our Homestay Support Service in Norfolk, where a full time support worker is based in a GP practice, has shown first-hand the range of preventable issues which cause people to repeatedly visit their GP. The support needs we identified included problems with budgeting or debt, lack of housing, lack of independent living skills, substance misuse and mental health issues. Many of these needs can be met by the support worker or through referral to other, non-medical services.
“While it is clear that an integrated approach to health and social care can be hugely beneficial for patients, GPs and more widely the NHS, similar services need to be rolled out much more widely in order for them to be truly effective.”