A LEADING GP has defended a scheme which will see anyone wanting to see a doctor have to discuss their medical needs with admin staff first.

Rossendale GP Dr Abdul Mannan, said the Care Navigation scheme has the potential to 'save lives', give patients 'greater choice' and 'reduce pressure' on stretched GP services.

The scheme, which is being trialled in Hyndburn before being rolled out across the rest of East Lancashire by March next year, will see patients have to talk through their health complaints with a newly appointed 'care navigator' before being given an appointment with a doctor.

Patients looking to see their GP could instead be denied an appointment and signposted to a dentist, optician, pharmacist, nurse or talking therapies.

The scheme has attracted criticism from health campaigners and residents concerned at the prospect of potentially sharing their personal details with 'GP receptionists'.

But Dr Mannan's practice, 'The Surgery', in Manchester Road, Haslingden, introduced the 'optional' scheme in April, which he said had been a 'success' since it has been introduced.

Dr Mannan, who is the deputy chair for Rossendale locality CCG and a GP for 12 years, said: "The surgery has been a pioneer for the scheme and has been doing it every day since April.

"The scheme is quite simple.

"When a patient contacts the practice, the care navigator will ask for a brief outline of the problem so they can identify the patient's needs.

"They will then be asked if they would like a GP appointment or whether they'd like to be signposted to a dentist, optician, pharmacist, nurses or talking.

"I absolutely feel it can save lives, as a patient could phone the surgery in the morning with chest problems, and under the care navigation scheme, the surgery could signpost them to paramedics.

"These paramedics will then come straight to the patients house rather than the patient wait until 6pm in the evening when they could have a heart attack in that time.

"The paramedics can then do ECG tests and advise them to attend A&E if necessary."

Dr Mannan said the practice has six care navigators, who are all trained by qualified health professionals including doctors and nurses, and that the scheme has seen GP appointments 'freed up' at the practice.

He also said that patients 'did not have anything to worry' about sharing information over the phone to the 'care navigators'.

Dr Mannan said: "We don't think of these staff in terms of GP receptionists which is quite outdated.

"But rather, there are a number of admin staff in GP surgeries who are qualified with lots of experience and training in dealing with patients.

"The scheme has also seen appointments freed up, as we had patients coming to us to get Paracetamols or minor illnesses and injuries which could be dealt with elsewhere in the service.

"The only details care navigators will have of patients is names and addresses, so patients don't have anything to worrying about disclosing personal information.

"It is an entirely optional scheme that I feel has been hugely successful since it has been introduced in my surgery."