Surgery News

November 2023 – Patient Newsletter

Important changes to the way 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 sorting questions to help us evaluate your medical needs.


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 have additional communications need you can use the phone to get in touch with us or visit us in person to complete your clinical sorting questions.


If you contact us over the phone, you will have two options for completing the clinical sorting 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.

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

No matter how you contact us, you won’t be able to get an appointment slot immediately after completing the clinical sorting questions.

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 get back to you 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: 

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

These priority 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, 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 that you can self-refer into.

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

By self-referring you will 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 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

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.

Every patient health request will be reviewed by a senior and qualified clinician. 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.

Our clinical assessment team will assess the questions you have submitted in your health request. In addition to this, your request is linked to your medical record meaning our team can also review your medical history alongside your health request to get a full picture of your health.

Based on the answers you have given us, and your medical history, our experienced team will decide what the next course of action should be.

For many requests, this will be to arrange a routine appointment within two weeks.

For people with an additional requirement, certain symptoms, or a pre-existing serious medical condition, you may be offered a priority appointment within 48 hours.

In some instances, the clinical sorting team may decide a specialist self-referral service like First Contact Pharmacy, First Contact Physio or Turning Point can treat your health need more effectively than the GP practice and will instruct a Care Navigator to signpost you to one of these services.

If you have an urgent or emergency medical need, we will direct you to an urgent or emergency care centre immediately.

If you want further details on who is part of our clinical sorting team, you can make an information request by contacting:

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’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: 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 sorting questions usually take around 5 minutes to complete. Submit your health requests at times in your day when you have a few spare minutes, such as when you’re waiting for public transport, cooking a meal 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.
  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 sorting questions online. 

If you are able to contact us on the phone, you will have two options for completing our clinical sorting 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, 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.