Case study summary
Holsworthy Medical Centre in NEW (North East and West) Devon has over 11,000 registered patients. The practice is made up of nine GPs, who between them were receiving 700-800 pieces of correspondence a day. Unable to keep up with the admin workload this was creating, the practice manager used the General Practice Improvement Leaders programme, which is part of the support available through the General Practice Forward View, to kick-start a project to reduce the volume of correspondence the GPs managed.
The practice manager chose ‘clinical correspondence and review’, as the live project she wanted to work on during the programme. Bringing together the practice’s GPs and staff, she took the lead in helping the team redesign a new process using process mapping.
Identifying the problem
The practice manager facilitated a process mapping session where the team mapped out the steps involved in how clinical correspondence was currently dealt with. A visual map was created and displayed, allowing staff to review and contribute over a period of one week. This encouraged a conversation around clinical correspondence in the practice, which was helpful for staff to align what they do and consider ways in which the process could be standardised.
Some of the issues identified were that the vast majority of correspondence was currently being managed by GPs, which was not always necessary. Also, there were delays in letters being dealt with and duplication of effort, as different GPs accessed the letters before they were filed on the patients’ records.
Redesigning a more effective process
Once the issues were identified, the practice manager led the team to design a new process that was fit for purpose. There was opportunity to discuss and agree what the new process should look like, who should be involved at different stages, and what was required to embed it. The new process relied less on GPs as the team recognised that with the necessary training, more correspondence could be dealt with by other staff e.g. the clinical correspondence team, GP secretaries and the pharmacist. Only a small volume needed to be seen by GPs such as new diagnoses.
- Previously 700-800 pieces of correspondence per day were being shared between nine GPs, this has now reduced to 15 to 20 each.
- There has been a significant time saving with each GP now spending three hours per week less on managing correspondence. GPs are more resilient and are able to focus on consulting with their patients.
- Correspondence is now dealt with and actioned quicker. It has given staff more clarity, the chance to work more smoothly and deal with correspondence in a timely manner.
“In the past I always wanted to look at improving how we managed correspondence but other things always got in the way. By participating in the General Practice Improvement Leaders programme I got the impetus to just get on with it, which was hugely beneficial. If there’s one piece of advice I would give, pick a project that’s going to be impactful and will get you a quick win. Success is always good to demonstrate.”
Jane Wells, practice manager, Holsworthy Medical Centre