Funding boost for new GP Assistants

Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) has been successful in its bid for £100,000 to lead the roll out of General Practice Assistants across the area.

The year-long pilot will train 40 GP Assistants in Norfolk and Waveney, who will provide high level non-clinical support to GP practices and reduce the administrative burden on clinical professionals.

Recruiting more administration staff is part of Norfolk and Waveney STP’s primary care workforce strategy and through our work we have already identified that we will need an additional 120 admin staff over the next five years.

The GP Assistants programme is funded by Health Education England and will be led by Norfolk and Waveney’s five GP Provider organisations; OneNorwich; North Norfolk Primary Care; South Norfolk Healthcare; West Norfolk Health and Coastal Health.

The programme will also involve working with key partners in the East of England, such as primary care networks, Clinical Commissioning Groups and training hubs, to support the spread of the GP Assistant role across the region.

Norfolk and Waveney STP will be one of seven ‘lead’ Primary Care Training Hubs across the country.

The GP Assistant role will include:

• Acting as a focal point for patient/carer enquiries
• Providing an in-depth understanding of health demographics and the cultural needs of patient groups
• Signposting patients to the most appropriate services where the GP surgery may not be the best option
• Where appropriate, acting on test results in line with local policy and procedures
• Managing referrals and prescriptions
• Sorting clinical post and prioritising directly
• Taking accurate minutes of complex and sensitive meetings
• Transcribing and preparing medical reports
• Using patient related electronic systems

Tracey Bullard, Head of Transformation at the GP alliance OneNorwich, said: “We are thrilled to be supporting and leading on this new and very exciting GP Assistant role for Primary Care. The role will be a very welcome enhanced addition to an ever busy and changing workforce and practice environment.”

Dr Emma Brandon, a GP at Paston Surgery in North Walsham and Chair of the Norfolk and Waveney STP Training Hub, said: “This is really exciting news. We know from earlier pilot projects that GP Assistants can help relieve pressure on busy GPs by helping to reduce the burden of clinical correspondence and day to day tasks. We are delighted to have been chosen as the only area in the Eastern region to pilot this scheme and look forward to welcoming the GP Assistants in our practices.”

Kirstie Baxter, Head of Workforce Transformation, Health Education England, said: “Health Education England is supporting local Primary Care Training Hubs with the introduction and spread of General Practice Assistants. General Practice Assistants will be great additions to GP teams, easing the administrative workload, releasing highly-qualified staff to concentrate on patients with complex conditions, and improving patients’ experience. We are looking forward to supporting Norfolk and Waveney Training Hub as they host and co-ordinate this exciting development in the East of England as part of our wider Workforce Transformation programme.”

New future for SOS Bus

The Norich city centre SOS Bus which offers a vital resource to the bustling nightlife In Norwich city centre on Friday and Saturdays nights is to have a new future.

The volunteer-run service has for the past 11 years been managed by city centre youth charity, OPEN Youth Trust (OPEN) and during that time has helped more than 11,500 people.

From April 2019 the SOS bus will be managed by volunteering charity Voluntary Norfolk, which in addition to running the Friday & Saturday night SOS service, has plans to take the bus out and about into the county during the week to promote and support other health & wellbeing and voluntary activities. Voluntary Norfolk will also support and mentor the volunteer group to increasingly take an active role in the management of the SOS Bus and all its activities.

More investment in children's speech and language service

An extra £510,000 is being invested in speech and language therapy services in Norfolk each year, to help boost children’s communication skills.

Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups have agreed the extra funding, to help cope with increased demand on the service and ensure more children can get the help they need.

Online GP consultations

The NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney are currently procuring a new IT system which will enable local GP practices to offer online patient consultations. It is expected that the new system would be available to practices in the early summer and already 30 practices across Norfolk and Waveney have expressed an interest. Whilst it is not possible to say when any particular practice will offer online consultations to its patients, any practice that chooses to do so will advise its patients in good time.

Online consultations involve patients contacting their GP surgery securely by using its websites or even an app. Their message is read and passed to the right member of staff to deal with, such as a pharmacist, nurse, therapist or GP. In some cases the patient can be helped or advised by responding securely online - otherwise they might be asked to come in for a face to face appointment or to pick up medicines.

One practice already offering online consultations since September is The Hollies in Downham Market. It is called “AskMyGP”, accessible via the practice website, and it has had a very positive response from patients.  The system allows people to submit a message which is managed during surgery opening hours. Patients receive a response online or by telephone or appointment.


The Hollies says “AskMyGP” has made a significant change in the way the practice team works. The new service has relieved a lot of stress regarding appointments, reduced telephone queues and allowed more choice in the way patients can interact with the practice.

Patients who have used the service have provided feedback on their experiences and since the launch, data shows a satisfaction rate of 93%, with patients agreeing that this new service has improved contact with the practice and patients are very pleased that a system is in place that suits their needs.


Video consultations

Video consultations require significant investment in IT, and the current IT infrastructure used by the NHS (called the ‘N3’) is not sufficient in Norfolk and Waveney. This is why we are working to upgrade systems with the new ‘Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) which has a greater bandwidth.
It will be some time before this is ready. When it is, GP practices will be invited to trial video consultations. We do not expect this to happen in the short term.