The General Practice Podcast

Ben Gowland explores new ways of working in general practice. He talks to those making changes happen, gets underneath what they did, how they managed to do it, and the challenges they faced along the way.
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The General Practice Podcast






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Now displaying: April, 2020
Apr 27, 2020

Is now the right time to making the most of the funded social prescribing link worker roles? Christiana Melam, Chief Executive at the National Association of Link Workers and Nicola Gitsham, Head of Social Prescribing at NHS England think so. Here, they talk to Ben about the history of the role, how practices and PCNs can maximise holistic patient care through the employment of the link workers and why they are a crucial element in managing the impact and the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.

Introductions (14 secs)

The evolution of the link worker role (1 min 21 secs)

What has been the impact of the pandemic on social prescribing link workers? (2 mins 50 secs)

How has the role changed in recent weeks? (7 mins 56 secs)

Why the link workers are the key to maintaining joined up patient care during the pandemic (9 mins 16 secs)

Recruitment of a social prescribing link worker (11 mins 21 secs)

Maximising the effectiveness of a social prescribing link worker in practice (12 min 53 secs)

NHS England and NALW resources (14 mins 42 secs)


NHS England links, contacts and resources:

Guidance on the role social prescribing link workers in supporting the response to COVID 19

GP Preparedness Letter: 27 March and Covid/GP Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) updated 6 April set out the role of the SPLW in supporting the response to COVID19

“Social prescribing link workers form part of the multidisciplinary teams in primary care networks (PCNs) and are uniquely placed to work closely with GPs, local authorities, health and care professionals and voluntary sector partners to coordinate support for these people whilst they are self-isolating.”

Network Contract Directed Enhanced Service (DES) Specification 2020/21:

Key sections for social prescribing link workers:

Learning and development (Annex B/B3.2)

Referrals to social prescribing link workers must be recorded using the SNOMED codes (Annex B/B3.6)

All the additional roles employed by a PCN or engaged via a sub-contract (including social prescribing link workers) must have access to other healthcare professionals, electronic ‘live’ and paper based record systems of the PCN’s Core Network Practices (section 6.4.1.)

Details on the NHSE delivery support offer

Social prescribing collaborative platform – with active discussion forum. To sign up to the collaborative platform, email

Weekly webinars for SP link workers specific to the  COVID-19 response. More information is on the collaborative platform.

Regional learning coordinators facilitate virtual peer support for link workers and providing additional support and information.  Contact details available from

Existing resources and support for social prescribing link workers (such as ) :

Regional facilitators and regional delivery teams available to support recruitment of link workers


Nicola has also included a blog she did for the National Academy of Social Prescribing:


National Association of Link Workers resources and contacts:

Covid 19-Hub

Learning syllabus

Code of practice

Other resources




Apr 19, 2020

Ben is joined this week by Katherine Saunders, Chief Executive, and Pramit Patel, Medical Director, from Alliance for Better Care; a GP federation covering 49 practices, within 10 primary care networks, across East Surrey and West Sussex. Together, they explain how the federation is meeting the challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis in their local area by setting up multi-disciplinary clinical decision units within the community, redesigning the home visiting process, identifying clear roles and responsibilities within their existing staffing models - and working to put general practice at the heart of their response.

Introductions (22 secs)

The role of Alliance for Better Care (ABC) and the Covid-19 response (1 min 18 secs)

The relationship with primary care (2 mins 6 secs)

Setting up a Clinical Decision Unit (CDU) within a community setting (2 mins 45 secs)

Managing patient exposure within the CDU (4 mins 23 secs)

Multi-disciplinary team working during a pandemic (5 mins 18 secs)

Integrating primary care into the wider system (6 mins 29 secs)

Sharing learning, materials and experiences (8 mins 12 secs)

How are local practices coping? (9 mins 3 secs)

Home Visiting (10 mins 26 secs)

Access to data and its importance (12 mins 4 secs)

How to manage demand and agree priorities with local partners (12 mins 59 secs)

Procurement of new systems and software (14 mins 39 secs)

The capacity to cope: roles, responsibilities and managing staffing levels (15 mins 44 secs)

Communication and engagement (17 ins 45 secs)

Getting in touch (19 mins 2 secs)


Katherine is contactable via email:

The Alliance for Better Care website

Apr 14, 2020

Tara Humphrey, Project Management expert supporting the development of Primary Care Networks and GP Federations, returns for the second in a series of podcasts focused on practical demands and planning in primary care, during the pandemic. This week, Tara and Ben discuss the differences and challenges in the approaches from practices, networks and federations, getting the staffing balance right and maintaining business continuity and personal resilience within a crisis.

Introductions (12 secs)

What's happening in Tara's world right now? (35 secs)

Financial management and planning (1 min 23 secs)

Redistribution of an underspend and the development fund (2 mins)

Supporting vulnerable patients (3 mins 7 secs)

Introduction of new roles / recruitment options within a network (3 mins 42 secs)

A federation's approach to incorporating new roles (5 mins 15 secs)

How does a practice buddy system work? (5 mins 48 secs)

Introducing and implementing new SOPs across networks and practices (6 mins 39 secs)

Joint working from a top down perspective... (8 mins 49 secs)

… versus expectation at practice level (9 mins 53 secs)

The pace of change and anticipating new demands (10 mins 30 secs)

How are practices coping overall? (11 mins 44 secs)

Putting emotional support in place for GPs (13 mins 14 secs)

The importance of practice managers and protecting the well-being of wider practice staff (14 mins)

Working from home and sustainability (14 mins 54 secs)

What's next for Tara? (15 mins 17 secs)

…and for Ben? (16 mins 10 secs)

Find out more about Tara Humphrey:





Apr 12, 2020

Specialist Medical Accountant James Gransby returns to the Ockham podcast to give his invaluable advice and assessment of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on primary care finances. What is currently being offered by the government by way of support for individuals, practices and networks, where are the landmines and what should we be mindful of now and going forwards?

Introductions (9 secs)

What is in place to support practices right now? (19 secs)

The Coronavirus Act 2020: Implications for general practice explained (1 min 15 secs)

‘Furloughing’ of staff (3 mins 14 secs)

The overall picture for primary care in summary (5 mins 16 secs)

How are PCNs affected? (5 mins 56 secs)

How to reflect a pandemic within a balance sheet (8 mins)

The national return to work scheme (8 mins 51 secs)

Death in service (11 mins 50 secs)

How worried should we be about the financial impact? (12 mins 36 secs)

Relaxation of pension rules (13 mins 35 secs)

Getting in touch (15 min 35 secs)


James is contactable via email:

Apr 8, 2020

Cassandra Baiano and Ron McDonald are both medical students within the Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScotGEM) programme at the University of St Andrews. Inspired by the quality improvement and agents of change portion of their curriculum, they have created an innovative application, HealthSHIP, which can offer support to health and social care workers in balancing the practical aspects of their home lives alongside the demands of working on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. Here, they talk to Ben about the inception of the app, the value of voluntary support during the pandemic and why healthcare students, in particular, can be a crucial source of assistance during these difficult times.

Introductions (10 secs)

The ScotGEM Programme update (23 secs)

How HealthSHIP began (1 min 30 secs)

Why healthcare students? (2 mins 25 secs)

Where did the idea come from? (3 mins 7 secs)

HealthSHIP right now (3 mins 33 secs)

How does it work in practice? (4 mins 49 secs)

What areas are covered and where does HealthSHIP fit alongside the national voluntary schemes? (5 mins 36 secs)

When was HealthSHIP launched and which tasks are being filled? (6 mins 44 secs)

Access and signup information (7 mins 45 secs)

Requesting support and types of support on offer for general practice (9 mins 29 secs)

Getting in touch and contact information (11 mins 42 secs)




Twitter: @HealthSHIP_UK

Apr 5, 2020

In the wake of the global coronavirus crisis, GP surgeries across the UK are facing the challenge of transforming working practice within a short space of time and reducing in-person consultations with their patients, whilst protecting their staff and maximising their capacity to deal with everyday demands alongside those presented by the pandemic. Dr Ravi Tomar was part of the transition at Portland Medical ahead of time and gives his advice for managing the changes and reflects on the key outcomes that they have experienced as a result.

Introductions (38 secs)

The move towards telephone and ‘virtual’ triage (48 secs)

Portland Medical: the stats (2 mins 32 secs)

Decreasing locum use (3 mins 3 secs)

Impact on face to face consultations (4 mins 23 secs)

Reducing face to face appointments as a result of Covid-19 (5 mins 5 secs)

Video consultation (6 mins 9 secs)

What tech is required? (6 mins 58 secs)

Telephone versus video consultations (7 mins 36 secs)

Video consults: lessons learned and practical advice (8 mins 18 secs)

Telephone to video consultation: managing an in-consult switch (10 mins 37 secs)

Covid-19 effect on day-to-day practice (11 mins 20 secs)

The system for managing Covid-19 at Portland Medical (12 mins 6 secs)

The ‘hot and cold’ model (13 mins 16 secs)

The role of other healthcare professionals and upskilling the workforce (14 mins 50 secs)

What are the significant outcomes as a result of the changes? (16 mins 47 secs)

Transition from old to new processes (18 mins 18 secs)

Patient feedback (19 mins 51 secs)

Final thoughts (20 mins 17 secs)

Getting in touch (20 mins 17 secs)


Preparedness update letter for general practice: 27 March 2020 here

Portland Medical website:

Dr Ravi Tomar is contactable via email: