Doctor Algorithm will see you now…how GP services are changing in Milton Keynes

It is going to be even more difficult to get to see your GP in future as the NHS introduces big changes to the primary care system.

Dubbed Primary Care Home, the new way of working involves groups of GP practices getting together with other health care experts so that patients get to see the right professional as soon as possible.

Newport Pagnell Medical Centre

Newport Pagnell Medical Centre

The system is also being designed so that GPs can concentrate their time on dealing with people with complex health problems, and in areas where they have a special interest.

Telephone and online services could be a part of this, a meeting of the Milton Keynes Health & Wellbeing Board heard on Thursday.

Cllr Pete Marland, the MK Council leader, warned: “With NHS 111 we used to speak to a nurse, but now they work to a script. It’s based on an algorithm, so the NHS can pay £17,000 to someone to sit and read through a script”

But Cllr Marland also said that the algorithm has a success rate of 80 per cent, while GPs were at 60 per cent.

Dr Nicola Smith, who chairs the MK Clinical Commissioning Group, wondered whether such a system would lead to GP surgeries becoming overwhelmed with online work.

New ways of working are also causing some head scratching around what to do with relatively isolated areas, like Olney. Cllr Marland was also concerned that “one man band” GP practices in places like Stony Stratford and Bletchley would not know all the services available in the area.

Hilda Kirkwood, of Healthwatch Milton Keynes, said she was concerned for Olney, which is isolated being 11 miles away from Milton Keynes. “Olney has weaker transport links for people if services are shared. It needs to be thought about.”

Health chiefs think that they might have a difficult time selling the concept of seeing a ‘health professional’ to members of the public who are used to seeing their GP.

Richard Alsop, the chief operating officer at Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Patients will be seeing a health professional quicker but it is how we manage the conversation. People expect to see a GP, but it might be more appropriate for them to see another professional.”

Cllr Marland urged the NHS representatives on the joint board not to use “1984-speak” and to concentrate on telling people what difference they would see.

“Stop telling me what the NHS is going to do,” he said to Mr Alsop. “And tell us what I am going to see as a patient. People do not like being told in 1984 speak.

“Don’t design the system and then just bolt us on to the side of it.”

Dr Smith said patients were already being referred to other health professionals, but the new approach would mean it is more ‘systematic’.

“It is about us driving toward better quality services and freeing up GP time to deal with people with more complex conditions. It’s dividing it up to make sure people get the right sort of care for their needs.

“We are reminding GPs that it is not all about them, but what is best for the whole population.”

The new way of GP working is being introduces across the country, with Newport Pagnell among the first areas to see the introduction of the Primary Care Home set up.

The two GP practices, at Newport Pagnell Medical Centre and NPMC@Willen, have been putting their focus on young people aged 11 and over with mental health needs, the working age population with mental health needs and the frail elderly.