A pioneering new health service for Prestatyn has opened its doors to patients.
And the team behind Healthy Prestatyn Iach say the town’s 23,000 patients will get a better deal, with a new drop-in centre and a range of specialists.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) has taken over two GP surgeries in the town for the new service, the first of its kind in Wales.
It was launched from its Central Surgery base on Ffordd Pendyffryn and the former Seabank practice on Rhodfa Wyn, along with two satellite surgeries in Meliden and Ffynnongroyw.
The team will move to Denbighshire County Council’s Ty Nant by the end of the year, once the building is refurbished.
BCUHB area medical director Dr Chris Stockport is leading the Healthy Prestatyn Iach team, which will run in tandem with Healthy Rhuddlan Iach where another GP surgery has also been taken over by BCUHB.
There are nine GPs among the 60-plus team of staff, with many familiar faces for patients as well as new recruits.
Patient Ray Wharton, 73, of Gronant, says he’s delighted with the new service and believes it will be better for patients and GPs.
He said: “I come to Central Surgery once a month for blood tests as I’m taking a cancer drug and have suffered a heart attack in the past.
“I do think people rush to see a doctor when they don’t need to. This new service means patients can be directed to the right health professional without having to necessarily see a GP first.”
Ray, a retired retail general manager, added: “Things have to change if the NHS is to survive. I joined this practice in December and I fully support the new service. Let’s hope it will save GPs a great deal of time and be better for patients too.”
Dr Stockport, who is a former GP, says the new model will radically change how the GP practice operates in Prestatyn.
He said: “We are adopting a holistic approach with GPs leading teams that include advanced nurse practitioners, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, pharmacists and other professionals. With time we will be adding more professionals.
“Historically a patient would book a GP appointment and go to see his or her GP who would too often only be able to reach for the prescription pad because other options were unavailable.
“Now we are going to ensure patients see the right professional at the right time. GPs will no longer just be acting as gatekeepers.
“For too long we have had GPs dealing with issues they don’t need to address. The problem then becomes ‘medicalised’ and very often that simply isn’t the right thing to do.
“When a GP sees, for example, a diabetic patient it’s no good just prescribing tablets we need to address the underlying issues. We can only do that by taking time to get to the root cause of the problem.
“So as GPs instead of simply prescribing tablets we will instead be prescribing social and lifestyle interventions. That has to be better for patients and better for the health service as we will be working in structured teams with professionals working together.”
He added: “One of the other issues is that young GPs don’t want to be self-employed and have to deal with all the extra pressure that comes from being contracted to the NHS but running surgeries as independent businesses.
“We have talked to young GPs and listened to their concerns. What many want is to be employed and not be self-employed, which is an option we are offering here.” Dr Sue Kidd, started work as one of the new Healthy Prestatyn Iach GP’s, and previously worked at a Wirral practice.
She said: “I have transferred here because I believe in Healthy Prestatyn Iach and the approach to holistic care.
“Working as part of a close team of health professionals means we will better treat patients while still having that personal interaction. And that personal touch is important. I want to get to know patients and their families.”
She added: “I really believe the new service has to be the way forward and will provide better care for patients. My husband Dr Nick Shah is joining me here in May once he finishes his work at his Birkenhead practice.”
Pharmacist Silvia Caldwell joined Healthy Prestatyn Iach after managing medicine at other GP practices.
She said: “This new system is multi-disciplinary and means health professionals working more closely together which has to be better for patients.
“My role within my team is to make sure medicine related problems are addressed and I answer the questions patients have with regard to prescribed medicines.
“In the past a patient would ask to see their GP and he or she would have to deal with any queries but now I will relieve my GP of that additional work.”
She added: “The aim is any patient can walk in and see a pharmacist the same day and have their concerns or questions answered.
“I will also be looking after blood tests. Lots of drugs need patients to have their blood tested so we can monitor patients and ensure their treatments are safe.
“Again, by dealing directly with blood tests as part of the team it takes the pressure and additional work off GP’s.”
Healthcare assistant Darryn Thomas, who as part of his role will co-ordinate the work of his Healthy Prestatyn Iach team, says he’s delighted with the pioneering new system.
He said: “I have worked at Central Surgery for 10 years but this new service is going to be so much better for patients, GPs and other health professionals.
“My role is to coordinate patient care to ensure patients are matched with the right professional that can best address their needs.
“Patient are allocated to teams and we can now ensure they get the help they need from the right professional at the right time.
“It saves time, streamlines the system and, as patients see the right person from the outset, it means they get the right treatment sooner.
“Of course there is still the option of booking an appointment, in confidence, with a GP if they prefer. If a patient is unsure who they need to see then I, as team coordinator, can direct them.”