Care Navigation

Reception teams have become Patient coordinators so you see the Right Person, in the Right Place, at the Right Time



Care Navigation is one of the top 10 high impact actions identified by the NHS to improve patient experience and release GP time. It was included in the GP forward view and NHS Long term plan as a method to offer patients a better choice of appropriate care in an increasingly complex health and social system.

Other terms describing the same principles include Care coordination and Active Signposting. It was as the latter that the first trials in 2014, demonstrated objective benefit in Wakefield. Here, they identified 27% of GP appointments could be managed in other ways and 1685 were saved over a 6 month period. Released time improved access and was matched by high rates of patient satisfaction.

Care navigation allows front line staff to inform patients about available services giving them a greater chance of seeing the right person, right place, right time. Getting the right service, first time, may not always mean a GP. Indeed, using the wider practice and community team, allows better access to those who really need their GP.

Care navigators are typically receptionists and admin staff who have been given specialist training to safely, professionally and effectively signpost patients to the most appropriate care.


What is the definition of Care Navigation

“A person centred approach that uses signposting and information to help primary care patients and their carers move through the health and social care system as smoothly as possible to ensure that unmet needs are met.”

It is underpinned by significant cultural and process related change.


Why introduce Care Navigation?

The NHS is facing increasing pressure from an aging population, limited resourcing, both financial and workforce related. Whitstable has not been spared from these problems. Therefore, the best journey through an increasingly complicated health system requires a skilled guide.

Recognising the proven value of care navigation, reception teams have been undergoing a training programme to become “Patient Coordinators”.

Sometimes a GP may not be the best person to resolve a patient’s need. Other health professionals like clinical pharmacists or nurse practitioners may be better and quicker.

Sometimes the practice is not the best place to resolve a patient’s need, other services like community pharmacies or dentist may be more appropriate.

Care navigation will tell patients when this is the case and help them make best use of valuable NHS resources.


How will Care Navigation work?

When seeking an appointment, whether in person or by telephone, the Patient Coordinator will ask for outline details of the issue so they can identify the patient’s need.

This allows them to consider the need with reference to practice based and wider services, including those of other NHS providers, Voluntary Sector and Social Care. Guidance on service criteria will be integral to their training and allow appropriate signposting suggestions.

Patients won’t have to reveal sensitive or confidential information if they don’t want to and may refuse. To be navigated will be voluntary. Care Navigation is not meant to be triage or a barrier to appointments.

However, supporting the navigation role will be crucial to success for both patient journeys and practice efficiency. Comprehensive training, clear guidelines, accompanied by effective communication and engagement with patients must underpin implementation. Wholehearted support must also extend from every part of the practice organisation. Otherwise the required cultural change needed from patients and NHS staff alike will not be possible.

Patient Coordinators at Whitstable Medical Practice will:

  • Not make clinical decisions
  • Observe patient confidentiality
  • Have clear, regularly updated service criteria to refer to
  • Suggest the best and quickest service to meet patient needs
  • Help patients see the right person, in the right place, at the right time

Please help our coordinators help you. Don't be offended if they ask you about why you want an appointment.

Of course you don’t have to say, but don’t miss the chance to help us to help you and other patients get the best from limited NHS resources.

Care navigation will have an official start in Whitstable Medical Practice on 01/04/2020.

Published: Mar 9, 2020