How do Paramedics fit into General Practice?
Many of us would associate the word Paramedic with emergencies, people being treated at the scene of an accident or rushed to hospital to a background of ambulance sirens and flashing lights.
So, it may initially seem a little odd if your GP practice arranges an appointment with or visit from a Paramedic.
But the reality is that General Practice teams increasingly included highly skilled roles like Advanced Paramedic Practitioners and Advanced Nurse Practitioners to ensure all patients have equal access to core primary care services.
Not just emergencies
Traditionally, Paramedics have been most associated with emergency care, but their skills are equally transferable to GP patients with acute needs.
Paramedic training allows them to quickly but thoroughly assess the situation they are presented with. Combined with their clinical judgement, Paramedics can make decisions about the most critical immediate actions that need to be taken.
When visiting housebound patients who have reported a specific health concern, Paramedics can take stock of the person’s whole situation. Not just the symptoms they’ve reported but any other underlying physical or mental health issues, as well as their surroundings and safety at home.
A Day in the Life of an Advanced Paramedic Practitioner
Our home visits team work closely with the GPs at all practices in our network.
Every morning, the Teams check in with practices to confirm their availability for the day. This means practices know how many visits can be scheduled, helping everyone to make sure the patients with the most urgent need can be prioritised.
Requests come through when a GP has spoken with a housebound patient and an in-person clinical assessment is needed.
It’s essential the teams are agile and can respond quickly. A mobile phone and laptop mean the team stays connected and can access medical records before a visit. A bag stocked with equipment and supplies means they are prepared for all eventualities.
On arrival, our Paramedics introduce themselves and explain that the Doctor has asked them to pay a visit.
Bringing the Practice to Patients
As mentioned earlier, people associate Paramedics with ambulances and hospitals – and if necessary, the team can arrange for people to be admitted – but the general approach is more holistic.
Caroline Wood, one of our APPs in Jesmond Lower Gosforth, describes the role as ‘bringing the GP practice to the patients’.
Of course, the number one priority is addressing the acute issue that made the visit necessary, but the team have the time to look at all aspects of the patient’s wellbeing.
For example, a patient may have multiple regularly prescribed medications, and it’s a chance for the team to check if the patient knows what each is for, when to take them or if they are having problems swallowing the pills.
If the patient would benefit from a chat or medication review, then the APP can pass a request on to a Clinical Pharmacist colleague to follow up.
With housebound patients, there is a chance they may rely on mobility equipment or have a regular carer who visits.
As with the medication, our team can check everything and identify any issues or possibilities that could make life that bit easier. Another set of network colleagues, our Social Prescribing Link Workers, can then take on any additional support needs.
Same-Day Appointments for Acute Needs
In 2022, we launched a new pilot project across Gosforth and Jesmond. Working out of our two network hubs, our team of Advanced Practitioners were available for same-day appointments for patients who needed to be seen as soon as possible.
The service gave all practices extra capacity above and beyond their own clinical teams’ schedule – an example of the additional tier of specialist services Primary Care Networks offer to GP practices.
Benefits to Patients and GP Practices
One of Primary Care Networks’ key aims is to address health inequalities. For housebound patients, there can be an inequality of access as they can’t get to their GP to be seen or get treatment. Our visits team provide this service, meaning patients are not disadvantaged by their lack of mobility.
The time our Advanced Practitioners can spend with patients is also a benefit. As we detailed earlier, it is a more holistic approach so other issues or opportunities for improved care can be identified and acted on.
The flexible, responsive way our team works across all GP practices means patients get seen quicker than if they had to wait for a Doctor to be available.
For Doctors and practices, it is also efficient, knowing that following a call with a patient, a highly skilled clinician will be able to provide an in-person assessment, ensure the patient’s comfort and arrange treatment, referrals, admission, or other support quickly and thoroughly.
Because of the collaborative and connected way our network teams work with practices, all patient notes, referrals, and all other important health information is shared back to practices, so everyone involved in a patient’s care is aware of what is happening.