Citizens Advice recently conducted research on the level and impact of ‘non health’ demand faced by doctors in general practice (GPs). https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/policy/policy-research-topics/health-and-care-policy-research/a-very-general-practice-how-much-time-do-gps-spend-on-issues-other-than-health/
Our central finding is that GPs in England spend almost one fifth (19 per cent) of their consultation time on patients’ non-health issues. This translates to an implied cost of nearly £400 million to the health service.
We believe this is an important area to explore, and presents opportunities for new ways of working across the front line of the health service.
In Wyre Forest the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are one of the CCG’s focussing on this area and last year commissioned their local Citizens Advice Bureau to provide support for GP’s and patients in the form of Community Well Being Buddies.
This ground breaking service uses volunteers from the local CAB who are trained to provide signposting and advice on non-health related issues which do have an impact on people’s well-being.
GP’s need to focus on health issues and cannot be expected to have the names of all the hundreds of support groups and voluntary organisations at their fingertips. Nor can they be expected to research them in the limited time that they have with each patient.
By making a referral to the Buddies the volunteer has the time to spend with the patient to establish what may be at the root of their problem or what can help improve things for them. An elderly patient whose wife had dementia felt guilty talking about his own needs and patients are often embarrassed telling their doctor that they may be having their house repossessed.
From the feedback and research so far we have found that many of the patients have welcomed this intervention rather than looking at solely medical solutions. It is hoped that this may in time save the NHS as well as improving the general well-being of the patients.
Although referrals can come from health professionals people can self-refer too. Sadly this service is only available in Wyre Forest but if your GP is this area and you would like to find out more please ask at your GP reception.