A Napier GP clinic is trying a new way to ensure patients can engage with their general practitioner, after wait times for appointments began to balloon.

The Doctors Napier has implemented a phone triage system, so if patients need a same-day appointment, they are able to speak with a GP first.

It is the fourth clinic in Hawke's Bay to use the system, called Health Care Home, after Hauora Heretaunga, Te Mata Peak Practice and Totara Health.

Two more practices are working towards implementation.


In October, GPs at The Doctors Napier spoke with 590 patients over the phone, with half those cases able to be resolved via phone.

It freed up 297 appointments being made available for face to face consults.

GP Maik Huneke said the system had been implemented to improve doctors' accessibility to patients.

"The wait time to get an appointment is longer and longer."

He said patients were waiting up to two weeks to see their regular GP.

Speaking with patients over the phone allowed simple resolutions to be completed without the patient coming in, for example if someone had run out of medication, or needed a referral.

This meant dedicated appointments were left free for those who needed to be seen on the day.

Huneke said he would recommend the system to other GP clinics if they were seeing increased wait times for appointments.


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Medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Bryan Betty, said phone triaging systems were becoming more common around the country to cope with demand.

"There is no doubt there is a lot of pressure of general practices around New Zealand, there's a looming shortage of GPs coming up, there's a very high demand.

"I believe every patient in New Zealand has the right to their own GP, so being able to connect in different ways is really, really important."

Hawke's Bay Health, the Hawke's Bay primary heath organisation, is also supportive of the initiative.

Primary care innovation lead Rebecca Mackenzie said the aim is clinical and business sustainability in an age of population growth, increasing need and medical staff shortage.

Hawke's Bay DHB's executive director of planning and funding, Chris Ash, said it is also supportive of the system.

"Right across Hawke's Bay's health care system, primary and secondary, we are implementing new ways of doing things that make best use of our health resources and do the very best for patients while striving to improve health care equity for our at-risk populations."