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Targeting non-clinical staff increases awareness and yields results in South Tyneside

Awareness raising across the South Tyneside healthcare system, and throughout each GP practice, is yielding results in HealthPathway utilisation and more efficient referrals.

South Tyneside’s HealthPathways team have engaged in a programme of awareness raising across the wider health and social care system. Initially focussing directly on GPs, the team have broadened the awareness of HealthPathways throughout GP practices, to ensure all members of the practice team involved with various aspects of patient care are aware of the value HealthPathways can add.

Susan Evans, South Tyneside HealthPathways Co-ordinator, has visited several GP practices and shown practice staff (targeting non-clinical staff such as administration staff, receptionists, and medical secretaries) how HealthPathways can specifically support them in their roles, and overall, support better patient journeys.

As a result of these visits, Susan has found that further education for these staff in what HealthPathways offers has had a direct impact on session and page views, ultimately benefitting patients through more efficient referrals.

Key resource for referrals

Susan uses HealthPathways as a base to demonstrate effective practice. Responding to a request to speak about Advice and Guidance, Susan used the relevant information on HealthPathways. When staff indicated they hadn’t seen HealthPathways before, Susan then showed them in more detail.

“Staff weren’t necessarily aware of the HealthPathways system or that there was information within it which was of direct benefit to them,” she says.

“They were very impressed with how useful the HealthPathways information is not only for GPs and practice nurses, but also for non-clinical staff,” she adds.

As many local GPs in South Tyneside rely on their practice staff to complete patient referrals, HealthPathways is a key resource for accessing referral forms, phone numbers, and other information.

Particularly useful for South Tyneside practice staff are the two-week wait referral forms for cancer referrals, Value Based Clinical Commissioning policy and Checker, including the prior approval tickets (PAT). Having all of the relevant information ready when referring patients into secondary care means that patients benefit from a more efficient service and are booked quickly into the correct clinic.

Feedback function appreciated

Practice staff appreciate knowing that their feedback comes direct to Susan, who always sends acknowledgement after receiving it (in addition to the autoresponse from Dot).

“Our feedback button encourages staff to let us know when they encounter anything that is out of date or incorrect. Practice staff have embraced this function, ultimately making HealthPathways better for all,” says Susan.

“It’s helpful for practice staff to know that their feedback is read, and who reads it,” she says.

Direct impact on page views

Following Susan’s initial visits, Susan took the initiative to visit more practices to introduce HealthPathways. So far, she has spoken to staff in seven practices, out of a total of 22.

The visits, in addition to South Tyneside’s already strong, continual engagement processes, are clearly having a positive effect on pathway utilisation, with South Tyneside HealthPathways page views increasing by 27% from April to May. This is despite two bank holidays in May, which usually cause a drop in page views.

Susan has since offered to visit all practices in the area.

Championing HealthPathways throughout the local health system

Remembering that HealthPathways has a lot to offer everyone involved with the patient journey is extremely important, says Susan.

“We need to push awareness across the whole system,” she says.

“The information we make available through HealthPathways is not just of use to clinical staff, or indeed general practice staff. We have purposefully promoted our HealthPathways site with non-clinical, third sector, mental health, community nursing and pharmacy colleagues, all of whom have found the information of help to their roles.”

Susan is now aiming to establish a HealthPathways champion in each practice, then to meet with them regularly, perhaps every quarter (either individually or as a group), to discuss any updates, queries, or ideas they may have.

Susan sees the HealthPathways champion as someone who is not necessarily the practice manager, but who will cascade information to the rest of the practice staff.

Learnings for other HealthPathways coordinators

Mark Girvan, Programme Manager, North of England Commissioning Support, underscores the value of personal contact and interaction with local GP clinics.

“Take the time to attend practice manager meetings, admin staff meetings, education events, and the like. An important part of the role is getting out there and meeting face-to-face. It’s a continuous process, take any and every opportunity to share the great work being done throughout the HealthPathways Community,” he says.

“After initially focussing our energy into promoting HealthPathways with general practitioners, we realised that in order to maximise its benefit we needed to engage with the wider system within South Tyneside. We’re delighted to see some of the benefits of that work, especially all of the time Susan has spent with practice teams, with utilisation continuing to grow exponentially month on month. For a borough of 150,000 to have over 400 individual users every month is a fantastic effort and shows that the information we’re making available through HealthPathways is of benefit to our colleagues,” says Mark.

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