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East Lancashire GPs break through the burden of bureaucracy

GP practices in East Lancashire have been celebrating how they have successfully broken through the bureaucracy of clinical correspondence and paperwork. The GP teams received support from NHS East Lancashire CCG and NHS England’s Time to Care initiative to see if they could reduce the burden of bureaucracy of clinical correspondence and related paperwork.

While a significant amount of correspondence is now communicated digitally, it still requires GPs to review and act on it. Much of this work is administrative and GP practices have been working to reduce the amount of time GPs spend on it, and in doing so, free up more GP time for patient care. Typically, clinical correspondence is scanned and forwarded to GPs who review the correspondence and agree what action they will take. Much of the correspondence can be reviewed by GP practice administrative staff, who can reduce the time their GPs spend on the information. This enables them to focus on the truly important clinical decision making that is needed.

The scheme has involved training staff to develop efficient and effective processes, and methods of analysis to streamline their management of correspondence and paperwork with the help of experts from NHS Englands Time to Care programme.

Dr Richard Robinson, Chair of the CCG said:

“Patients want to know that their GPs are focused and spending time on patient care and not on administrative matters that can be easily delegated to their practice staff. This initiative has equipped our GP practices with methods and techniques to review working practices and improve them so that we can break through the burden of bureaucracy whether that is digital or paper and devote more time to improving the lives of patients through patient care. Some estimates suggest that 80-90% of clinical correspondence can be processed safely without the involvement of a GP, and this can free up approximately 40 minutes per day per GP.  This time saving is equivalent to four GP appointments.”

Dr Iain Ashworth, GP at Barrowford Surgery has been involved in the scheme and has seen the benefits of tackling clinical correspondence:

“It is very easy for GP practices to get swamped with electronic and paper clinical correspondence, and as a GP I can spend a significant amount of time reviewing the information. However in reality, there is an awful lot of information that I can delegate to my staff while I focus on the really important clinical information that may affect my patients. It has been a good process to do and it has resulted in real benefits to my patients, me as a GP and my staff. I estimate that my involvement in clinical correspondence has reduced by between 75-80%, and it has enabled me to use my clinical experience and expertise where it is needed – for the 15-20% of correspondence about patients that really need it.

“Patient demand for GP and nurse appointments has never been higher. It is often quite hard for GPs and their teams to take time out of busy practice to learn new techniques and test them out, but with the support from the CCG and NHS England we have been able to do this, and the pay off is that we have introduced improvements that can give us more time care.”