A new generation of web-based healthcare hubs is providing patients in West Yorkshire with round-the-clock access to services and a guiding hand on where to go for support and advice – without having to see their local doctor or visit A&E.
West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing is a group of six neighbouring GP practices, serving around 64,000 patients in West Yorkshire. Their Health & Wellbeing Hub - an online ‘directory’ of local services - is supported by the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, the nationwide initiative aimed at improving day-to-day healthcare. Through it the organisation delivers local health, wellbeing and support information from a range of sources.
The group has just added a brand new ‘Care Navigation’ feature to the platform, specifically designed to help patients find their way around the local healthcare system and locate the most appropriate service for their needs.
A ‘triage’ feature gives pointers on where to seek help, depending on the urgency of their situation and - by integrating with recognised sites, like NHS Choices and Patient Opinion - gives patients the best possible advice on where to go. It also pulls in other relevant content from social media sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Meetup, and makes patients aware of other informal sources of support and social activities that could help with their general well-being, from bereavement groups to book clubs.
Meanwhile a range of online tools can help patients, for example, check their own symptoms, plan healthy diets, boost their fitness, quit smoking and understand their own body mass index. They can also use the hub to access SystmOnline, which lets them book appointments at their own GP surgery and safely request prescriptions over the internet.
Representatives from all six of West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing’s practices, spread across Chapelthorpe, Horbury, Lupset, Middlestown and Ossett, were involved in developing this Care Navigation service – together with Nova (a support agency for voluntary groups in Wakefield), members of the Senior Citizens Support Group and South West Yorkshire NHS Partnership Foundation Trust.
Alongside this new online resource, West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing has developed a network of more than 70 ‘Care Navigators’ – staff from the GP practices and volunteers from the community - who have been trained to guide patients to the support they need. This includes directing patients to their local pharmacy, contraception and sexual health services, physiotherapists, family support and voluntary organisations, all dependent on their individual needs.
As well as getting patients to the care they need faster, the Hub, which is optimised for smartphones and mobile devices, shifts demand away from the frontline and frees up more GP appointments for those who really need them.
The Hub’s original directory of local services celebrated its six-month anniversary in April, not long before the new Care Navigation facility was launched. It has generated strong interest, and its usage continues to rise: within six months more than 1,300 different people visited the West Wakefield Hub, between them holding over 2,200 sessions on the website. Among the most common topics users search for help with are ‘mental health’, ‘mobility’, ‘sexual health’, ‘support groups’ and ‘home care’.
Dr Chris Jones, Programme Director at West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing, said:
“Since its introduction, the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing hub has harnessed the power of the web to add a new dimension to care and support in our catchment area. The Care Navigation facility will shift demand away from the frontline while still providing a high quality, 24-hour service to our patients.”
Guy Giles, Looking Local’s Managing Director, said: “With increasing pressure on frontline services, helping local health bodies deliver round-the-clock support that cuts unnecessary GP appointments and reduces the number of visits to A&E is becoming increasingly important. Building on the success of the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing hub, we are now in a position to share this capability elsewhere in the UK focusing on local health priorities.”