Surgery News

Important changes to the way you contact us and how we process your health requests

Why Is My GP Practice Changing?

GP practices across the UK are changing the way patients contact them and how patient health requests are processed. 

Over the last couple of years, the NHS has seen a large increase in the number of patient health requests and a shortage in the number of key healthcare workers, such as doctors.

In May 2023, the government announced plans to modernise GP practices providing contract changes and funding for practices to embrace new technology and change the way health requests are processed.

These changes have been rolled out to help GP practices tackle the 8am rush for appointments and they are designed to help patients get quicker access to healthcare, give patients more ways of getting in touch with GP practices and help practices be better equipped to deal with a high number of healthcare requests.

Health Care First is one of thousands of GP practices making these changes, we will be going live with our changes on the 4th December 2023. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing and contacting you with important information about the changes you can expect when using our services.

Look out for texts from us and be sure to check our website and social media for more updates.

How Is Health Care First Changing?

GP practices across the UK are changing the way patients contact them and how patient health requests are processed.

Health Care First is one of thousands of GP practices making these changes, we will be going live with our changes on the 4th of December 2023.

To find out more about how Health Care First is changing visit our website at: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk.

Here are the top takeaways:

  • You will get routine appointments within 2 weeks and appointments within 48 hours.
  • You will have three ways of contacting us for an appointment; Online, Telephone and In-person.
  • All of these contact methods will require you to complete a set of clinical assessment questions via PATCHS through an online form.
  • Your health request will be assessed by a clinical assessment team, and you will then be contacted with an appointment offer.
  • If your health request needs an appointment with a member of the team, we will send you a text with a link to book an appointment convenient to you in up to two weeks. 
  • You may be asked to contact another specialised healthcare service if your medical needs can be better treated by that service.
  • If you struggle to do any of the above our Care Navigators (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) can help you get appointments with us and other services.
  • There will be no changes to booking appointments with a practice nurse, health care assistant, or phlebotomist. 

Be sure to check our website and social media regularly for more information and advice on getting the most out of these changes.

Printed versions of this information will be in all waiting areas and receptions for patients who cannot access information online.

We’re changing the ways you contact us and how we process your health requests

GP practices across the UK are changing the way patients contact them and how patient health requests are processed. 

Over the last couple of years, the NHS has seen a large increase in the number of patient health requests and a shortage in the number of key healthcare workers, such as doctors.

In May 2023, the government announced plans to modernise GP practices providing contract changes and funding for practices to embrace new technology and change the way health requests are processed.

Health Care First is one of thousands of GP practices that will be making these changes, we will be going live with our changes on the 4th December 2023.

The first change you may notice is there are now three ways to get in touch with us:

  • Online 
  • Telephone
  • In person

All three of these contact methods will be dealt with in the same way.

You will be asked to complete a series of clinical assessment questions to help us evaluate your medical needs.

Online

If you contact us online, you will be able to complete these questions on Patchs through an online form.

All patients, who are able to, should use the online form to contact us.

If you struggle to use online systems, you can use the phone to get in touch with us or visit us in person to complete your clinical assessment questions.

Phone

If you contact us over the phone, you will have two options for completing the clinical assessment questions. You can speak directly to a Care Navigator over the phone who will go through the online form with you over the telephone, however, there may be a call queue to use this line at busy times of the day. 

Or you can use our telephone assist with no wait, where an automated call handler will ask you questions and allow you to record your answers.

In Person

If you visit us in person, you will be provided with a smart device to complete the online form request. 

If you are unable to complete the online form via the smart device one of our Care Navigators will support you to complete the form.

Getting an appointment

Through all of these contact methods, your request will need to be processed first by our clinical assessment team, which includes one of Health Care First’s GP doctors and an Advanced Nurse Practitioner.

Our clinical assessment team will review your request and contact you back with an appropriate response.

If your request needs an appointment with a member of the team, we will send you a text with a link to book an appointment convenient to you in up to two weeks.

If you are unable to receive your appointment offers through a text message a member of our team will call you instead to confirm your appointment time. You should let us know if you are unable to manage your appointments over a text message by emailing: Healthcare.first@nhs.net 

Most routine appointments will be scheduled within 2 weeks of you contacting us, however, some medical requests may be considered urgent if you have severe symptoms, an additional need, or another serious medical condition. 

These urgent appointments will be scheduled within 48 hours of your request.

I didn’t get an appointment

In some circumstances, you may not be given an appointment to see one of our clinicians straight away.

If we think you have an urgent or emergency medical need that we do not have the capacity to treat, you will be directed to an urgent or emergency care centre for immediate treatment.

For certain medical conditions and symptoms like minor illnesses, minor eye conditions, back and neck pain or mental health and wellbeing support there are specialist community services into which you can self-refer.

If your medical need fits into the criteria for one of these services, we will ask you to self-refer to the service. 

Self-referral services have shorter wait times than our services, and they are designed to focus on treating specific medical conditions. By using these services, you will get access to the medical care you need much quicker than you would through a traditional consultation.

By self-referring you will also be saving our doctors and other clinicians valuable admin time that can be used to deliver more patient consultations. 

If you cannot self-refer, then one of our care navigators (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) will support you to make the self-referral in person or over the phone.

In many cases, these services will be able to provide better more specialised care for your medical needs. If these services cannot meet your medical needs, they will refer you back to us and you will be given an appointment.

If your treatment plan requires the support of one of our GP doctors, for example for a prescription, then the service will contact us and the health request will be picked up by a member of our clinical assessment team.

Why isn’t my appointment with a GP?

Health Care First has been steadily expanding our team of healthcare professionals over the last couple of years to work alongside our GPs.

Many of the new staff we’ve brought on are specialists designed to support patients with specific kinds of medical conditions. Here are some examples:

Clinical Pharmacist

Clinical Pharmacists are experts in medicine. They can support people with long-term conditions like asthma, or anyone taking multiple medicines, to make sure their medication is working.

Physician Associates 

Physician Associates diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions. They work alongside GPs to provide care to people, including those with long-term conditions.

Mental Health Practitioner

Mental Health Practitioners use a range of methods to help people with mental health conditions.

Care Coordinator

Care Coordinators work with people who may need extra support to navigate the health and care system. 

GP Assistant

Healthcare Assistants work under the guidance of our GPs. They help with routine health checks and can give certain vaccinations. 

Depending on your needs, you may be seen by a member of the wider practice team. Having access to a range of professionals means you receive the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.

Be sure to check our social media and newsletter to find out more about who will be looking after your health.

What should I do for non-appointment requests?

You can request sick and fit notes online through Patchs or you can call us on 01977 664141 and use line number 4 on our call menu between 10am and 14.00pm

For repeat prescriptions, you can request these online through your NHS App or via Patchs.

Alternatively, call into reception presenting your repeat prescription counterfoil.

To request a home visit, you can contact us via the telephone on 01977 664141 and use option number 3 on our call menu.

There will be no changes to booking appointments with a practice nurse, health care assistant, or phlebotomist. You can contact us directly to book an appointment with these professionals.

Getting In-Touch Online

Here is a quick guide to making an online appointment request with Health Care First.

Start by visiting: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk 

Click the option on our homepage that says, “Online Consulting Room.”

This will take you to our PATCHS platform.

Click “contact my GP practice.”

Next log in via your NHS login or PATCHS account.

You can find out more about your NHS login here: www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/online-services/nhs-login/ 

Next, you will be asked if you want to create a request for yourself or someone else. Choose the appropriate option.

You will then be asked to complete a series of questions regarding; what kind of support you need, whether this is a new or ongoing medical condition, what symptoms you might be experiencing and what your availability is like over the coming weeks.

Complete these questions to the best of your ability and when you’re done submit your request.

Once you have completed the online form, you’ll get a text with a link to book an appointment, or you will be directed to contact another service.

Your appointment text will provide you with details on how to book your appointment.

You should always try to book online if you can because online requests help us to process everyone’s health requests more efficiently. The online form is the quickest way to get in touch with us, it only takes 5 minutes to complete.

By using the online form to book appointments, you also free up our Care Navigators to support people with additional communication needs.

Where possible we would also encourage carers to support those, they care for in completing our online questions, though we are making special adjustments for patients who cannot do this and do not have another responsible adult to support them.

For more information visit our website: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Getting In-Touch Over the Phone

We are encouraging all patients who are able to, submit health requests online.

But for those patients who need to, we will still be able to provide telephone support for appointments and other requests. 

When you call the practice, you will come through to an automatic call menu, which will give a range of call options. 

By listening to and using the appropriate option for your call, you will be able to find and make a health request. 

Use line 1 to cancel an appointment. 

Use line 2 to contact us with a health request such as requesting an appointment.

Use line 3 to arrange home visits or contact for healthcare professionals.

Use line 4 for prescriptions sick notes and result queries. 

Use line 5 for referral and insurance queries.

When you use line 2 to request an appointment you will need to complete some clinical assessment questions to help us process your request.

You will have two options for completing these questions. You can wait in a phone queue to speak to a Care Navigator who will go through the online form with you over the telephone. 

Or you can use our telephone assist with no wait, where an automated call handler will ask you questions and allow you to record your answers.

Your request will then be processed by our clinical assessment team who will contact you with either an appointment offer, or you will be signposted to a specialist self-referral service.

For more information about changes coming on the 4th of December and how to contact us over the phone visit our website: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Contacting Health Care First In-Person

Health Care First understands that not all patients will be able to complete our clinical sorting questions online or over the telephone. 

Patients who cannot use these methods are welcome to visit us in person, where one of our Care Navigators (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) will be able to provide you with the means and support to complete our clinical sorting questions.

In-person, appointment requests will be processed in the same way as online and telephone appointments. Because of this, patients visiting us in person may need to wait whilst our clinical assessment team process your request.

Once the clinical assessment team have assessed your healthcare request you will be given an appointment within either the next 48 hours or 2 weeks depending on whether or not you have an urgent medical need.

For more information about changes coming on the 4th of December 2023 please visit: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Who looks after your healthcare?

The changes being introduced on the 4th of December will require patient health requests to be assessed before we can provide an appointment or signpost to a self-referral service.

Because of this, we understand you may have questions about how your health requests are being processed, and who is processing them.

Patient health request will be reviewed by the Clinical Assessment Team. This will include a practising doctor from within our GP practice as well as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner who will specialise in treating specific medical conditions.

For more info on our clinical sorting team and what the outcomes of your appointment requests will be, visit our website: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Why have I been asked to self-refer?

From the 4th of December 2023, our experienced clinical assessment team will be assessing all appointment requests.

In some instances, our clinical assessment team may decide a specialist self-referral service can treat your health needs more effectively than the GP practice and they will instruct a Care Navigator (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) to signpost you to one of these services.

These are self-referral services, so you can submit a direct request to them for support. 

By self-referring you will be referred to the most appropriate service for your care need. This service will have a shorter wait than our services and you will be providing our doctors and other clinicians with extra capacity to deliver more consultations to people whose needs cannot be met by a self-referral service.

If you cannot self-refer then one of our care navigators will support, you to make the self-referral in person or over the phone.

Some local self-referral services are:

First Contact Pharmacy

All your local pharmacies can provide consultation for minor illnesses and medication-related support. Pharmacists are highly qualified and experienced in supporting patients in these areas.

First Contact Physio

First contact physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who work to diagnose and treat pain related to muscular and skeletal problems.

Minor Eye Conditions Service

Health Care First always refer patients showing symptoms of minor eye conditions to an optometrist who specialises in supporting these conditions.

Turning Point

Turning Point is an amazing local service that offers mental health and substance support to patients. 

In many cases, these services will be able to provide better more specialised care for your medical needs. 
If these services cannot meet your medical needs, they will refer you back to us and you will be given an appointment.

If your treatment plan requires the support of one of our doctors, for example for a medication request, then the service will contact us and the request which be picked up by a member of our clinical assessment team.

For more info about local self-referral services check our social media and website for more updates. www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

We’ve expanded our team of healthcare professionals…

Health Care First is committed to meeting the health needs of all our patients. That’s why we have been steadily expanding our team of healthcare professionals over the last couple of years to work alongside our GPs.

Many of the new staff we’ve brought on are specialists designed to support patients with specific kinds of medical conditions. Here are some examples:

Clinical Pharmacist

Clinical Pharmacists are experts in medicine. They can support people with long-term conditions like asthma, or anyone taking multiple medicines, to make sure their medication is working.

Physician Associates 

Physician Associates diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions. They work alongside GPs to provide care to people, including those with long-term conditions.

Mental Health Practitioner

Mental Health Practitioners use a range of methods to help people with mental health conditions.

Care Coordinator

Care Coordinators work with people who may need extra support to navigate the health and care system. 

GP Assistant

GP Assistants work under the guidance of our GPs. They help with routine health checks and can give certain vaccinations. 

Depending on your needs, you may be seen by a member of the wider GP practice team. Having access to a range of professionals means you receive the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.

Be sure to check our social media and newsletter to find out more about who will be looking after your health.

www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Telephone and online forms

Completing Clinical assessment Questions Over the Phone

When you contact us over the phone to book an appointment you will always be asked to complete a series of clinical assessment questions to help us evaluate your medical needs.

If you contact us over the phone, you will have two options for completing these questions. 

You can speak directly to a Care Navigator (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) over the phone who will go through the online form with you over the telephone, however, there may be a call queue to use this line at busy times of the day. 

Or you can use our telephone assist with no wait, where an automated call handler will ask you questions and allow you to record your answers.

Both these methods of contacting us will be processed the same way in the same timeframe.

The outcome of both these contact methods will also be the same. 

For many requests, we will offer a routine appointment within 2 weeks.

For people with a disability, complex personal circumstances, concerning symptoms or a pre-existing serious medical condition, you may be offered an urgent appointment within 48 hours.

In some instances, our clinical assessment team may feel a specialist self-referral service can treat your health needs more effectively than the GP practice and will instruct a Care Navigator to signpost you to one of these services.

You should always try to book online if you can because online requests help us to process everyone’s health requests more efficiently. The online form is the quickest way to get in touch with us, it only takes 5 minutes to complete.

By using the online form to book appointments, you also free up our Care Navigators to support people with additional communication needs.

For more information about changes coming on the 4th of December and how to contact us over the phone visit our website: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Telephone Assist

You don’t always need to speak to a Care Navigator (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) to make a health request over the phone. Find out more about Care Navigators here: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk/were-making-small-changes-that-will-have-a-big-difference/ 

Our phone lines now have a telephone assist.

When you call us and select option 1 on our call menu to book an appointment, you will be given the opportunity to use telephone assist.

Telephone assist takes you to an automated call handler where you can answer our clinical assessment questions over a recorded phone line, without having to wait in a queue.

This recording will then go straight to our 

clinical assessment team alongside your medical record for processing. 

Once our clinical assessment team has had a chance to assess your health request, we will contact you with an appointment offer or an alternative care offer. 

If you are able to you should use telephone assist because it helps us to process everyone’s health requests more efficiently and quickly. By using telephone assist to book appointments, you will be able to submit a request in under 5 minutes you’ll also free up our Care Navigators to support people who cannot use this service.

For more information about changes coming on the 4th of December and how to contact us over the phone visit our website: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Top tips for completing online forms

Let’s take the stress out of online forms…

We know that completing online forms can be a pain for patients. It feels like they take ages to do, and it seems much easier to speak to someone over the phone.

To make life a bit easier for you we have designed our online form to take less than 5 minutes and we’ve created our top tips for completing our online clinical sorting questions when making a health request for new or existing conditions:

  1. Before contacting the practice take the time to check your symptoms on the NHS symptom tracker: https://111.nhs.uk/ if the symptom checker offers you self-care advice follow this before contacting us. 
  2. One of the most important parts of completing an online form is letting us know your availability. Before starting your form check your calendar and identify dates and times you would not be able to make an appointment such as your working hours or prior commitments.
  3. Our clinical assessment questions usually take around 5 minutes to complete and is available online from 7:45am to 5:45pm. You should submit your health requests between 7:45am to 5:45pm, at times in your day when you have a few spare minutes, such as when you’re waiting for public transport or on a lunch break. 
  4. Before you start make sure you have your NHS or Patchs login details to hand or saved to your browser passwords. If you don’t have your Patchs login details, you can use the forgot password link to recover your details or you can make an account by following the create account link.
  5. Ideally use a desktop or laptop to complete your questions. It is usually more difficult to accidentally close or reload your laptop on these devices than a smartphone.
  6. Try not to get distracted whilst filling in the questions, if you step away from the questions for too long you may be logged out of your session.
  7. Before you start your questionnaire quickly reflect on what you have been up to since your health problem started. Can you think of anything that has triggered it? Think about whether or not a lifestyle choice such as your diet or exercise regime has affected the problem.
  8. Before you start your questions quickly make a list of the symptoms you have been experiencing in relation to your medical request. Tell us if you’re experiencing pain, if your senses have been affected and which parts of your body seem to be affected. Giving a full list of your symptoms helps us to identify the root cause of your health problem.
  9. Try and measure your symptoms. Tell us if your symptoms are severe or mild. Tell us how long you have been experiencing your symptoms. Tell us if your symptoms are recurring or whether it seems to be a one-off occurrence. Tell us whether your symptoms seem to be getting better or worse.
  10. Highlight in your answers anything you are particularly worried about. Our clinical sorting team will take this into account when processing your request. You should also tell us about any specific outcome you are hoping for as part of your request such as a GP appointment, a prescription, or a referral.
  11. Tell us what you have done to treat your symptoms or condition so far. This could be self-care or details of ongoing treatment you have had from us or another NHS service. You don’t need to go into extreme detail about your previous NHS treatment as our clinical sorting team will also review your medical records alongside your answers,
  12. If your request is related to a condition, you have been treated for in the past, you may be asked who you spoke to at Health Care First previously. If know who then tell us, or if you don’t know and you have the NHS App, you can view your previous appointment to see which clinician saw you last. You can find more info on the NHS App here.

We wanted to thank you in advance for using our online forms. By completing our online clinical sorting questions, you are really helping the GP Practice and other patients by providing us with the ability to assess your healthcare needs quickly and efficiently.

Health Care First understands that not all patients will be able to complete our clinical assessment questions online. 

If you are able to contact us on the phone, you will have two options for completing our clinical assessment questions. You can wait in a phone queue to speak to a Care Navigator (previously referred to us “Receptionists/Call Handlers”) who will go through the online form with you over the telephone. 

Or you can use our telephone assist, where an automated call handler will ask you questions and allow you to record your answers.

If you struggle to use technology like phones and computers, you are welcome to visit us in person where one of our Care Navigators will be able to provide you with means and support to complete our clinical sorting questions.

Regardless of how you get in touch with us, you can use the information above to complete our clinical sorting questions more efficiently and effectively.

111, Urgent and Emergency Care

The new changes coming to Health Care First on the 4th of December 2023 are designed to make our services as safe and responsive as possible for patients. 

You can read more about these coming changes here: www.healthcarefirst.co.uk

Due to the amount of patient demand for our services, we are unable to guarantee same-day appointments, however, patients with a disability, complex personal circumstances, concerning symptoms or a pre-existing serious medical condition, may be offered an urgent appointment within 48 hours.

If you have a medical need that requires same-day medical attention such as: 

  • Bad cuts and grazes
  • Sprains and strains
  • Simple broken bones 
  • Wound and wound infections
  • Minor burns and scalds
  • Minor head injuries
  • Insect and animal bites
  • Skin infections, rashes, or allergic reactions
  • Urine infections
  • Fever

You should visit one of the local urgent care centres:

King Street Walk in Centre, 47 King Street, Wakefield WF1 2SN 

10am – 10pm. 

01924 882350 

Pontefract Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC), Friarwood Lane, Pontefract, WF8 1PL

Open 24 hours. 

Call 111

If you have an emergency medical need, you should contact 999 or make your way immediately to your nearest A&E department.

If you have a medical need and you’re not sure who you should contact, then you can ring 111 for medical advice. The 111 service will be able to direct you to the most appropriate service.

Be sure to check our website and social media for more info on what services are available in your area.