Many practices have experts ranging from nurses and physiotherapists to dietitians and clinical pharmacists, who can help patients without a GP referral and therefore provide advice more quickly.
As we come out of the pandemic, Derbyshire GPs say they have been embracing new approaches to see and help more people, increasing the number of appointments compared with a year ago, and are keen for patients to understand the advantages of having a consultation with someone other than a doctor.
Dr Miles Davidson, a senior partner at Stubley Medical Practice in Dronfield Woodhouse, said: “We remain incredibly busy at the moment yet still receive a high demand for GP advice for conditions that can often be dealt with by the local pharmacist, health visitor or the community physio.
“At Stubley Medical Practice we now enjoy the support of an in-house clinical pharmacy team, which can directly help patients who may be having problems with their prescribed medication.
“We also have a specialist admin support team which helps to coordinate the care of patients who are particularly frail or vulnerable, and a social prescriber who works one-to-one with patients for whom a medical intervention or medication is not the solution.”
Guillermo Sierra is a clinical pharmacist at Stubley Medical Centre and told us about the many different ways he can help people.
He said: "I am a medicines expert who works as part of the GP team to make sure your medicines help you in getting better and staying well.
“If you need an appointment I can see you in the practice the same way you will see your GP or your nurse, and if you have a long-term condition like hypertension, diabetes, asthma or anything that requires you taking regular medication, I can talk to you about the medicines you are taking and how they work for you.
“I will also help you make changes to your lifestyle to help you stay well.
“If your medicine is making you feel bad, I can help you change your medication to minimise any unwanted side effects.
“I will also make sure that all the mediation you take are working well together.
“I will also, if necessary, do health checks like blood pressure or will make any other necessary appointments to make sure you get the tests needed to make sure your medication is working and/or not damaging your body.”
Dr Drew Smith, a partner at Wilson St Surgery in Derby, said many patients needlessly wait to see a doctor for health concerns which could be dealt with more quickly and often more effectively by someone else.
“It’s very common for me to meet with a patient, virtually or in person, and quickly realise that they should be speaking with one of our clinical pharmacists, an advanced clinical practitioner or one of the nurses,” he said.
“These staff members can usually see someone more quickly and can often help the patient more quickly.
“As a GP, I have a lot of knowledge about managing and treating illness in general – but my colleagues often have more specialist knowledge than me within specific areas.”
At Hannage Brook Medical Centre in Wirksworth, Dr Penny Blackwell said she had received ‘excellent’ feedback from patients who were able to access care and advice more quickly through seeing the nursing team for long-term condition management.
She said: “Our nursing team really is outstanding, especially for these long-term conditions.
“They have expertise in specific areas that we as GPs lean on and I know that for many patients the best option is to go straight to the nurses.
“Patients sing their praises and it means that I can focus my attention on those patients who need my skills.
“We’re a base for many different services – podiatry, pharmacist and pharmacy technician and first contact physiotherapy in particular – and you don’t always need a doctor to refer you to those services.
“Our reception team know what services we have and are trained specifically to identify when a patient can be go directly to them without a doctor getting involved.
“That gets the patient into the right hands more quickly.”
Elspeth Huber is one of four practice nurses working out of Hannage Brook and is a specialist in dealing with patients who have diabetes.
She said: "We’re all part of a team here, just like at every practice, so it makes sense for patients to come to the right person as quickly as possible.
“I have a lot of experience in my area and I know what the others do as well because we are always communicating to ensure patients can rely on us.
“So if I’m treating a patient with diabetes, I can refer someone to podiatry if they need specialist help with their feet, or to our pharmacist for advice on medications.
“Patients love being able to book appointments with me and the other nurses directly because it gets them the care they need more quickly.”
Every practice differs in the specialist roles it provides, so patients should check their local GP website or ask about the best person to see when making a booking online or by phone.