A new service called Advice and Guidance has been introduced in GP practices across Bury to help ensure that patients are receiving the most appropriate care in a timely way.

Advice and Guidance is a consultant led service provided by specialists at The Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, which brings together the Salford Royal and Pennine Acute hospital trusts. The service offers local GPs quick access to specialist knowledge in areas which include cardiology, general surgery, paediatrics, orthopaedics, as well as many more.

GPs can use the service to make a request for a specialist in the field to review and seek advice on a patient’s symptoms, clarification with the understanding of test results, identify the best treatment plan or whether they need a referral to a specialist clinic. GPs will often receive a response from a consultant within two working days.

This new initiative is improving local patients’ experiences by reducing the number of hospital appointments they need to attend and giving them quicker access to appropriate services. It has led to patients receiving reassurance at an earlier stage as a decision is made sooner as to whether the patient needs further investigations or whether they can remain under the care of their GP.

As the GP receives specialist advice at the earliest stage, an informed decision can be made as to whether a referral into hospital care is necessary. Sometimes the advice is that a patient can remain under the care of their GP and doesn’t need to be referred to hospital.  As a result, referrals for a first appointment have reduced by around six per cent. This is good news for patients as they receive the most appropriate care straight away, and it frees up hospital services for patients that need them.

GP feedback has also been positive around the benefits of the service.

Dr. Jeff Schryer, local GP and Chair of NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “This new initiative is a good tool to use in surgery during consultation with a patient. It helps GPs to seek specialist advice quickly and provide reassurance to a patient in a timely manner.

“Until recently, a hospital referral was the main approach GPs would need to take to get a better understanding of a patient’s symptoms or to seek clarification on test results and the prescribing of medication. Advice and Guidance is one of many new initiatives that have been introduced into our GP surgeries, which makes it more efficient to identify which patients would benefit from further investigation in a specialist setting, and those that we can support in practice or by advising appropriate self-care approaches.”

Notes to editors:

Advice and Guidance currently covers cardiology, clinical haematology, gastroenterology, general surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics, rheumatology and trauma and orthopaedics.

The next stage will include diabetic medicine, ear nose and throat (ENT), endocrinology, respiratory medicine and urology.

The Northern Care Alliance NHS Group brings together five hospitals, 2,000 beds, specialist and acute services, a range of associated community healthcare services, and over 19,000 staff across Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

More information can be found at www.northerncarealliance.nhs.uk.