Beacon Medical Group, ‘We are General Practice’

On the 07 August 2015 the SW AHSN organised a visit to Beacon Medical Group at Plympton Health Centre for members of the ‘Primary Care Reference Group’ to learn about the pioneering, innovative model of general practice. The new model was originally made possible by a drive within the group to make a positive change and to ensure the future of General Practice.

Representatives from the Universities, Health Education England South West and Clinical Commissioning Groups had the chance to see and hear about the new primary care model which was led by Claire Oatway, Chief Operating Officer, Beacon Medical Group.

Claire introduced the practices, which are centred on a new model of General Practice, where patients can be seen by either a General Practitioner, Pharmacist, Nurse Practitioner or Paramedic.

Receptionists within the centres have been trained to be Patient Advisors, and to act as a preliminary triage to refer patients to the relevant practitioner. For example, conditions that can be treated by the nurse practitioner will be referred to them by the Patient Advisor with the permission of the patient, without having to see the GP.

Claire Oatway, Chief Operating Officer, Beacon Medical Group said: “This new model has revolutionised the way of working for both the practitioners and patients alike. It relieves the pressure on our GPs, allowing them more time to spend with their patients, and in turn has huge, positive implications to the care of their patients and the GPs’ professional and personal wellbeing”.

Although some may view the new primary care model as having a direct effect on the sanctity of the GP role in society, others from the Beacon Medical Group would argue the model has enabled GPs to spend more time with patients who have conditions which need to be dealt with by a doctor. This allows patients to be equally treated safely and effectively by one of the other members of primary care staff, with a GP always available to help if necessary.

Simon Robinson, Paramedic, Beacon Medical Group stated that: “although sometimes people need more information regarding the particular practitioner’s experience before they trust them, once this is done, they are on the whole very satisfied that their care can be referred to that practitioner going forward. One family have now requested that they be seen solely by the Paramedic, unless their treatment requires another of the health professionals”.

Looking at the financial implications of this model, some may view it as a risk to take money from the salaried GP ‘pot’ to employ other health care professionals. The team at Beacon Medical Group understood that this was a possible risk, but one they were prepared to take in light of significant GP shortage. Beacon Medical Group have been given ‘Fast Follower’ status due to their strong bid for the NHS England Vanguard sites, despite being less than a year old on application, which means they will be part of a programme of sites which will be among the first places beyond the vanguards to adopt new care models. The ambitions of the group include evaluating the model thoroughly so that others may learn from it, and also teaming up with Ogilvy, a marketing company, to hopefully promote their work in a progressive way.

Looking to the future of Primary Care and the developing workforce model, Beacon Medical Group say that their motto for team work is: ‘We are General Practice’.

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