Changes in the ways of handling clinical correspondence could free up to 40 minutes a day in GPs’ time to spend with patients.
The Rhondda GP Cluster is expanding the skills of practice staff, including nurses, healthcare support workers and administrators.
New methods of dealing with clinical correspondence alone could ease significantly the administrative burden for doctors.
Administrative staff in Rhondda are the first in Wales to undertake training in ‘workflow optimisation’, a method developed within the NHS in England and now operating in 62 practices there.
It is estimated that 80% of clinical correspondence coming into practices could be dealt with efficiently and more quickly by administrators without the need for a doctor to see every letter.
Lewis Smith, business manager for the not-for-profit training organisation ‘Here’, said: “We have developed an innovative way of improving capacity within general practice. Ultimately we want to release GPs to do more of what they can do, provide more care for their patients.
“We train members of the GP practice clerical team to read, code and action incoming clinical correspondence according to a framework based on practice protocols.
“We support the GP champion in ensuring the practice achieves a safe, sustainable and full implementation of Workflow Optimisation.”
Letters coming into the practice from hospitals can be placed on the patient’s records more quickly and any action that is required initiated.
Jayne Williams, Here training co-ordinator, said: “We have demonstrated that 80% of correspondence can be dealt with by administrators, leaving just 20% that needs to be seen by the doctor. The programme is audited by the GP champion and is accredited by two medical defence organisations.”
Dr Gaynor Thomas, based at Pont Newydd surgery in Porth, said: “We are looking at up-skilling our practice staff so that as GPs we can make more time for our patients.
“We have been looking at the administrative burden for GPs using the philosophy of the aggregation of marginal gains. The aim is to find a 1% margin to improve on everything we do in general practice freeing up more time for patients.”