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Becoming a care navigator

Care navigators are members of GP support staff who have been trained to help patients get the right help from the right health profession as soon as possible by asking for a little more detail from the patient when they call. 

Care navigation is a new way for general practice staff to ensure that patients are being signposted to the most appropriate source of care. 

This training was introduced in response to the ‘General Practice Forward View’ and the importance of role is further supported by the NHS Alliance report ‘Making Time in General Practice’. In this report in was shown that, on average, 27% of GP appointments were found to be potentially avoidable. 

Many of these patients would have been better served by:

  • An appointment with another member of the practice team (general practice nurse or health care assistant).
  • An appointment with a member of another service in the wider primary care system (pharmacy, physiotherapy, or mental health services).
  • Self-care or navigation to non-medical services in the community (social care).

This research proposed that by introducing care navigation this figure of 27% could be reduced by up 16%. This would release GP appointments for those patient most in need and improve patient experience by ensuring that they are receiving the right care – first time.

Care navigators receive the necessary education, training and support to ensure that they can work safely and effectively in patient-centred care. The aim of this initiative is to upskill our current primary care workforce, to reduce the ever-increasing demand on GP workload and, ultimately, to ensure that our patients are receiving the right care, first time.

How will this benefit our patients?

Care navigators will work with our patients to ensure that they are signposted to the right support, at the right time – across a wide range of health care needs. 

By asking some basic questions about a patient’s current health problem or query, care navigators will be able to help patient’s identify the most appropriate source of care – this might be with a GP, another member of the practice team or a health care professional from the wider primary care services. It has been found that up to one third of calls that come into a surgery could be managed safely by a Care Navigator and do not need to be dealt with by clinical staff.

Care navigators understand the wide range of clinical skills available within their practice and what alternative health services are available in the local area. Depending on the query, a patient may be able to secure an appointment with a GP nurse or pharmacist far sooner than they would be able to see their GP – not only are they seeing the best clinician for their care but they can often be seen quicker. 

By ensuring that patients are being directed to the right health care provider, this will release some capacity within the GP appointment schedules which ensures that those patients who are most in need of a GP can secure an appointment more quickly.

See our FAQs for more information.

Who is care navigation training aimed at?

Care navigation training is appropriate for staff in primary care, the voluntary sector, and the community sector. 

This training is aimed at staff members who spend (or will spend) a proportion of their time signposting or navigating patients to the right support for their health care needs. Trained staff will be skilled and confident in sensitively ascertaining the nature of the patient’s need and exploring with then safe and appropriate options (NHS England).

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the key staff who have received this training so far have included - receptionists, administrators, MDT co-ordinators, and health care assistants.

Why are we delivering it?

This initiative was offered in response to high levels of interest expressed by local practices in May 2017. This training programme is part of our wider aim to reduce workload pressures, upskill our workforce, and release capacity in general practice across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The workforce development themes within this project support are directly linked with the 10 High Impact Actions (NHS England) specifically the areas of - Active Signposting, Develop the Team, Personal Productivity, Partnership Working, Social Prescribing and Support Self-care.

What support will your practice receive?

This care navigation training has been commissioned via the CCG with the aim of supporting all member practices – so every practice will be able to take advantage of this free training opportunity. 

The CCG has developed a series of care navigation information leaflets, posters and patient FAQs.  This will increase the awareness and understanding of the role for both practice staff and patients.  Printed versions ofresources will be available to all practices from July 2018.

The CCG has worked in partnership with local practices and care navigation champions with the development and piloting of MiDoS.  This is a Directory of Services information search tool which will enable care navigators to search for a wide range of health, community and voluntary services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Find out more about MiDOS here.

 What are the training dates?

Gold Level Training – Champions of Care Navigation

  • Aim: To support their local care navigation network and to support service development and delivery
  • Date: 7 March 2019
  • Times: 9am to 12.30pm (am) or 1pm to 4.30pm (pm)
  • Venue: Civic Suite, Pathfinder House, Huntingdon, PE29 3TN
  • No. of places: x20 per cohort (x40 total) 
  • Eligibility: Delegates must have attended at least Bronze or Silver level 

For full details please see the attached care navigation programme plan.

How can you get involved?

If your practice would like to get involved and support the upskilling of your staff in care navigation then please email CAPCCG.PrimaryCare@nhs.net with:

  • the name of your learner(s)
  • the date and time (am or pm) of the session that they will be attending.

Priority will be given to practices that have not yet been able to take advantage of this free training opportunity.

If your practice would be interested in hosting Care Navigation training please contact the Primary Care team.

Feedback so far

To date the CCG has successfully supported 272 care navigation training sessions at Bronze, Silver or Gold level across our primary care workforce!

“I think it’s great - you get to see the right person at the right time.” -   Local patient, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 

“I feel very passionate about care navigation and believe it is the way forward.  It has helped to use everyone’s time more efficiently. I have found that I turn less patients away since asking more questions. This pleases patients as well as giving me increased job satisfaction. Doctor appointments don't go so quickly first thing as only those that need to be seen are booked in. Those patients who don't realise they don't need an appointment - e.g. to order repeat prescription - are educated and have their issue resolved by the receptionist aka Care Navigator” - Care navigator, Greater Peterborough 

“The Care Navigator scheme is an integral part of our overall strategy in improving access…and really compliments our work with Productive General Practice Quick Start scheme [offered as part of the Time for Care Programme].  The Care Navigation training has sparked some local joint working with the other two March practices” - Practice manager, Fenland 

“GPs across the region see hundreds of patients each day, and care navigators are helping free up appointments for those who need them, whilst empowering others to manage their own health and wellbeing more effectively.” - Dr Gary Howsam, CCG Clinical Chair and Chief Clinical Officer 

Useful links

In the media

As a result of care navigator feedback, in April 2018 the CCG launched a media campaign to raise awareness with our patients on why the reception team may be asking more questions. This led to two our Care Navigators being interviewed by ITV Anglia News and appearing on the local News channels!  Please see the full written report here - http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2018-04-16/xxx/ 

Care Navigation Networking

A closed care navigator group has been set up on Facebook. This forum allows care navigators to keep in touch, share ideas and support each other. For more information on how to sign up, please contact CAPCCG.PrimaryCare@nhs.net

Health Education England

In 2016, HEE developed a competency framework to describe the 9 core competencies required for effective care navigation. This framework was used as a guideline for the facilitation of care navigation training across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

To find out more, please visit the HEE website https://hee.nhs.uk/our-work/care-navigation 

NHS England

To find out more about the development of this innovation, please visit the NHS England website https://www.england.nhs.uk/gp/gpfv/redesign/gpdp/reception-clerical/

To find out more about how care navigation has been adopted in other areas, please visit the NHS Networks discussion board https://www.networks.nhs.uk/nhs-networks/releasing-capacity-in-general-practice/messageboard/1-active-signposting