The role of General Practice Assistant (sometimes known as Medical Assistants) was initially developed in the United States, to safely deliver a combination of routine administrative tasks and some basic clinical duties in the general practice setting. The focus being on supporting General Practitioners in their day-to-day management of patients, specifically aimed at reducing the administrative burden and making best use of consultation time.
In line with The General Practice Forward View (2016), HEE established a national working group to test how General Practice Assistants might support general practice, including ‘proof of concept’ sites in the North West and London/South East.
Each site has taken a different approach to introducing GPAs based on local need, with both clinical and non-clinical versions of the role being developed.
Growing demand for workforce solutions in primary care and the evolution of Primary Care Training Hubs presented an opportunity to replicate the GPA role at scale nationally. In 2019/20 Health Education England commissioned The West Yorkshire Training Hub to run a pilot for 40 learners across the Yorkshire, North East and Cumbria region.
The aim of the pilot was to have examples of the GPA role working in a range of practices across the region which in turn and over time will enable them to share the benefits of this different way of working with other practices in their locality.
After the successful pilot in the North East, Cumbria and Yorkshire last year, Health Education England has commissioned another 40 places.
The GPA Scheme 2021 offers general practice’s financial support for education and training during the scheme.
Places are extremely limited and we ask that only those who are serious about completing the framework and who are supported fully by their practices apply.
Practice benefits of having a GPA
Our first pilot showed the majority of practices are using their GPA’s two to five times a week which on average has helped the doctors decrease their workload on the following tasks:
- Providing information or filling in benefit forms eg. fit notes (2 hours a week)
- Providing information or filling in forms or assessments for patients life insurance, confirmation of fitness for sporting events or other private requests (1.75 hours a week)
- Requesting further tests or investigations (excluding x-rays) (2.25 hours a week)
- Completing prescriptions (2 hours a week)
- Requesting x-rays or other radiology (1.5 hours a week)
- Referring patients to hospital for outpatient care (1.75 hours a week)
- Referring patients to community care (2.25 hours a week)
- Completing patient notes (2 hours a week)
- Completing business tasks associated with running the GP practice (eg. HR, Finance, recruiting, invoicing, purchase orders) (2 hours a week)
- Other administrative tasks (3 hours a week)
The GPA’s have also brought advantages to their practices by:
- Reducing the hours GP’s work over their contacted hours
- Reducing the time GP’s spend on administrative tasks
- Reducing the average waiting time for patients
- Creating more job satisfaction for the team
- Creating more patient satisfaction
- Having an impact on QOF
- Improving efficiency in patient management tasks
To assist general practices in taking this step of considering the appointment of a General Practice Assistant, HEE is offering a financial incentive of up to £2120 over a six month period per GPA.
The purpose of the incentive is to cover backfill for the learner doing one day a week of study/training for six months. Also in recognition of the clinical time given to support the learner and any training outlay you may have.
The scheme is open to the full variety of roles which practices may choose to develop into an GPA, examples include:
- Health Care Assistant
The learner will work through competencies within the GPA framework and upload their evidence onto an online portal for their GP mentor to mark their work. We are able to provide frameworks for clinical and non-clinical GPA’s.
Practices who wish to support their staff to undertake the GPA framework should give careful consideration on choosing a GP mentor for the GPA.
The GP mentor needs to dedicate time to work through the modules and teach the learner. This can be outsourced to other members of the team such as Practice Nurse for certain clinical areas or the Practice Manager for certain admin areas for example.
The GP mentor will be logging on to the portal and marking the learner as competent so they need to be suitably assured.
Practice Eligibility & Criteria
On the closing date applications will be reviewed. The aim of this pilot is to support the spread and adoption of this role so initially priority will be given to ensure places are shared equally across all CCG areas within the North East, Cumbria & Yorkshire.
There will be a short interview over the telephone to ensure the learner, workplace and support are fully aware of the framework requirements. Candidates can be put forward by the GP who will be mentoring them and the Practice Manager.
We would expect that the candidate is already considered competent in good patient care from their experience as members of a GP practice and be DBS checked to an enhanced level.
The candidate must have a named GP mentor who will be responsible for supporting them through their competencies. Should a GP mentor not be able to guarantee regular tutorials then this framework is not achievable.
You can find a copy of the application form on the Training Hub page under Course Forms.
An application form should be completed and submitted to [email protected]
Support Available To Practices
- GPA competencies and GP mentor resources are supplied by HEE.
- The West Yorkshire PCWTH hub have a dedicated email address for scheme queries.
- The Learning Assistant have a dedicated email address for any portal queries.
- Sample job person specifications are available which can be adapted for practice use.
- A progress report is sent to all learners, GP mentors and Practice managers monthly.
Financial Support Available
In this current financial year HEE has committed to support 40 new trainee GPAs in Primary Care across HEE North East Region. GPA scheme bursaries are available for 2021 for up to £2120 over a six month period.
This amount has been apportioned as below.
|After initial month||£1,060||•Back fill of the GPA for 1 day a week. |
•Recognition of clinical support
|Completion of GPA certificate||£1,060|
This is a HEE funded project and as such bares no cost to the practice or learner.
In fact your practice will be eligible for £1700 per candidate broadly to cover backfill for the learner doing 1 day a week of study/training for 6 months.
Also, in recognition of the clinical time given to support learners there is a further training grant of £420.
This funding may also be used to contribute towards any training outlay, such as phlebotomy, you may decide to undertake.
Funding will be paid to the practice 50% on starting the course and 50% on completion of the GPA Certificate and any reporting requirements have been met.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do GP Assistants do in practice?
GP Assistants (also known as Medical Assistants) support doctors in the smooth running of their surgery by handling the routine administration and some basic clinical duties enabling the GP to focus on the patient.
GP Assistants will be trained to help with:
- Sorting all clinical post and prioritising.
- Extracting all information from clinical letters that needs coding.
- Dealing with all routine clinical post directly e.g. DNA letters, 2WW etc.
- Arranging appointments, referrals and follow up appointments of patients.
- Preparing patients prior to going in to see the GP, taking a brief history and basic readings in readiness for the GP appointment.
- Dipping urine, taking blood pressure, ECGs & phlebotomy.
- Completing basic (non-opinion) forms for the GP to approve and sign such as insurance forms, mortgage forms e.g. ESA113 etc
- Explaining treatment procedures to patients including arranging follow up appointments.
- Helping the GP liaise with outside agencies i.e. getting an on call doctor on the phone to ask advice or arrange admission while the GP can continue with their consultation(s)
- Support the GP with immunisations/wound care
How is the GP Assistant framework delivered?
The GPA framework is an experiential course that is led by a GP at your practice. The framework has 5 Domains Care, Admin, Clinical, Communications and Managing Health Records. The GP mentor will work through the competencies within the framework with the learner in a tutorial and the learner will write up their evidence of their understanding for the GP mentor to mark.
We will provide both the learner with an on line facility called the Learning Assistant where the competency framework will be stored and the learner can upload their written evidence to this portal. The GP mentor will have their own log in and will use this to mark the learner work. We will have sight of the progress throughout and we will externally verify the learners evidence via this portal too.
The learner will need to dedicate one full day a week to the framework. Half a day working through the competencies on the online portal and writing up their evidence and half a day gaining hands on experience with their GP mentor. The GP mentor may second the learner to the practice nurse or others in the team to help train in areas relating to simple clinical duties such as blood pressures but the GP mentor will ultimately be responsible for signing the learner off as competent. This can take time and we recommend that this is done regularly and not left to the end of the framework. We would expect work to be sent back on occasion for revision so timings are important.
The learner will need to be supported by a GP who will act as their mentor. Assuming the learner meets the entry criteria the GP mentor can put the learner forward for the GP Assistant Certificate.
The workbook syllabus has been created by GPs, Practice Managers and Nurses. The aim of the framework is to support a standardised approach to practices upskilling their team.
If the learner has already completed part of the framework due to their current carer do they need to do it again?
All modules must be completed. Even if a learner is an existing HCA and has completed certain elements of the course previously, they still need to upload their evidence to demonstrate this. Of course there may not be any need for the learner to be mentored in this area if they already have a good understanding and they can go straight to uploading their statement of understanding.
Additionally there may be some elements that you do not plan to utilise in your practice such as phlebotomy for example. Again this module will need to be completed in order to pass the entire course. The other option would be remove the whole clinical module and for the learner to work towards being a non-clinical GPA.
How long will the GPA scheme take?
We expect learners to have completed the framework in 6 months.
When does the GPA scheme start?
We will e-mail successful applicants, their GP mentors and practice managers. Log in details will then be emailed out to learners and mentors and we expect all to have logged on to the Learning Assistant and have started the framework at the beginning of April 2021.
What does a working day look like for a GP Assistant?
Well ultimately this will be up to the practice. Systems may already be in place to deal with certain pieces of work and practices may just want to plug gaps. Alternatively practice may want a complete system change. The choice is down to the practice.
The GPA Framework will provide learners with the tools to offer a variety of services to support the GP.
Watch how one GP practice in the North West has developed a new Medical Assistant role, transforming the way they work and practice.
Do you provide a GPA and pay their salary?
We do not provide a GPA, we do not pay their salary and this is not an employment scheme. This course provides a framework for practice to upskill an existing member of their team to become a GPA.
Can the course be extended longer than 6 months?
The course needs to be completed in 6 months. It is really important that there is a plan in place and the learner starts the course as soon as the log in details are received.
What is the difference between a Clinical and a Non Clinical GPA?
Clinical GPA – All 5 domains in the framework have to be completed and the learner will be awarded with an accredited certificate of completion from Chester University equivalent to 10 credits at level 4.
Non Clinical GPA – The clinical domain will be removed from the framework. The other domains in the framework have to be completed and the learner will be awarded with a certificate of completion.
Are any external courses or workshops provided?
There are no external courses, workshops or training provided. The learning is experiential. We provide resources for practices GP mentor to tap in to and to work through with their learner and we provide the framework in order to meet the competencies to become a GPA.
Does the learner need to leave the practice to complete the course?
The learner does not have to leave the practice to complete the course. The learner will log in to a web based portal which houses the framework. The learner will submit evidence which supports their understanding.
What does the GP mentor need to provide the learner to support them? The GP mentor needs to dedicate time to work through the modules and teach the learner. This can be outsourced to other members of the team such as Practice Nurse for certain clinical areas or the Practice Manager for certain admin areas for example. Remember though, the GP mentor will be logging on to the portal and marking the learner as competent so they need to be suitably assured
What protected time does the learner need?
The learner and the mentor need to have protected time. We recommend 1 day a week where possible for the learner – ½ a day teaching and ½ day where the learner writes and uploads their evidence. Please do not put a candidate forward if you cannot afford them this time or you are unable to mentor.
Will any guidance we given to use the portal?
Both the learner and the mentor need to be relatively proficient with IT. Both the learner and the GP mentor will be provided with a user name and a password to the access the portal. Both will also be provided with user guides which will show how to log on, access the course content, access where to upload evidence and where the mentor accesses their learners work to mark them as competent.
Who can we contact for more information?
Please contact Robyn Knapping from the West Yorkshire PCWTH – [email protected]