Campaign urges patients to make the most out of non-GP primary care services

A new campaign to ensure patients in Northern Ireland receive the primary care they need has been launched

The Patient Group has launched a campaign encouraging patients to get the most out of their health and social care services.

The project is in conjunction with the Royal College of GPs Northern Ireland (RCGPNI) and also includes an information leaflet.

Primary care services are stretched across the UK, with recruitment and workload challenges rife. As such, the Patient Group and RCGPNI decided to do their part to ensure everybody is able to access medical, mental health and social support when needed.

RCGPNI Patient Group chair, Karen Mooney, said: “Working with the College, we have become all too aware of the incredible pressures that GPs and their teams are facing.

“As patients, being able to access services when we need them is our top priority, but we know that people are not making the most from all the services and support available to them within the community.

“Our leaflet aims to give fellow patients more information about how they can better care for themselves, where they can find reliable health information online and how they can get the most out of all of their interactions with healthcare professionals.

“Not only do we hope that some patients will think about the alternatives available to them before making an appointment with their GP, we also hope that the information we are providing will encourage those who avoid engaging with healthcare professionals to go and see their family doctor when they need to.

“There is a vast variety of healthcare professionals and staff available to us, each playing their part to keep our health service running; however, many of us do not make the most of their knowledge and expertise. One of the groups that often get overlooked are medical receptionists in our GP practices.

“Medical receptionists are trained by the GP and while they cannot diagnose or advise on medical conditions, they have a lot of information they can offer us. We want to remind people that the entire GP team is there to help us get the most suitable service and best experience when we go to our local GP surgery.

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“Our key message today is to remind everyone that our health service is our best asset. It is there when we need it most and we expect it to keep us healthy, but sometimes we forget that we have a responsibility to keep it healthy too.”

Reflecting on the work that has been taken forward by the Patient Group, RCGPNI chair, Dr Grainne Doran, added: “Patients are often unclear about the services that are available to them and by the conflicting information available online.

“It is great to see the innovation that has been shown by our voluntary patient group to help support others in getting the best from our health services.

“There are many healthcare professionals and sources of information available to patients within the community. Our community pharmacist colleagues are an underutilised resource who can provide advice and treatment for many minor ailments and conditions, saving many people from waiting to see their GP unnecessarily.

“Nidirect is also an incredibly valuable source of health and social care information that patients can use to search symptoms, learn about the services available to them locally and advise on over-the-counter treatments and home remedies that might be helpful in certain circumstances.

“Our patient group is also reminding others about the value of GP appointments. Every day, people do not attend their booked appointments with their family doctor.

“There are many reasons for this and it is often unavoidable, but this information leaflet encourages people to cancel appointments where they can so that spaces can be offered to those who need them.

“We all have an important part to play to protecting our health and social care services and I hope that this information will assist people in making the right decision for them, based on their needs.”

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