They can help to free up GPs time and contribute to the smooth running of appointments, improving patients experience in the surgery.
The GP Assistant role (sometimes known as Medical Assistants) was initially developed in the United States, to safely deliver a combination of routine administrative tasks and some basic clinical duties in the general practice setting. The focus being on supporting General Practitioners in their day-to-day management of patients, specifically aimed at reducing the administrative burden, making best use of consultation time and supporting those particularly vulnerable to isolation who are regular attenders at the practice.
What difference can General Practice Assistants make?
Evidence suggests that effective adoption of this role has the potential to:
- improve patient access and release highly qualified staff to concentrate on treating and managing patients with more complex conditions - HEE GPA Working Group report 2018
- improve patient flow within surgery hours, increasing the time efficiency of appointments, and reduction of waiting times; supporting patient experience by ‘translating’ or reiterating information from the GP - University of Cumbria 2017
- have a positive impact on GP retention and job satisfaction
- reduce time spent by GPs on managing correspondence by 85% - Surrey Heath Community Providers, 2018).
Progress with spread and adoption of General Practice Assistants
Since 2017, General Practice Assistants have been introduced by some individual practices, with bespoke roles being developed based on local requirements.
A scoping exercise in 2018 described the approach taken by two ‘proof of concept’ sites:
- In the North West, the focus was on a ‘combined’ role of both administrative tasks and basic clinical duties
- In London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS), a non-clinical role was introduced, with a focus on administration and workflow optimisation.
Following the successful introduction of General Practice Assistants at these sites, a national programme was set up by HEE in April 2019 to introduce the role more widely, led by a Primary Care Training Hub in each region. The aim is to provide a consistent approach to developing the role, underpinned by a defined job description and competency framework to support work-based learning.