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'I love that you do a bit of everything in general practice'

Work life is varied for practice nurse Eleanor Phillips at the three city clinics where she set up nursing services

Revellers with injuries from falls after too much alcohol on New Year’s Eve, people with symptoms of heart attacks and patients with wounds or complex histories after being tortured in Iraq. 

That’s just some of the diverse caseload for three GP practices, which practice nurse Eleanor Phillips has been involved in setting up.

Ms Phillips helped establish nurse services at three Birmingham practices for Assura Medical and says although it was daunting, it was a challenge she relished.

The former Birmingham Children’s Hospital nurse qualified a decade ago and was attracted away from acute and into primary care because of the variety it offered her. 

“I love that you do a bit of everything in general practice,” she says. “You need to have knowledge in a variety of areas, from sexual health to chronic diseases.”

After seven years working in the NHS, she moved to Assura Medical – tempted by the idea that she could help establish three clinics, decide what kit to buy and set up nursing services. 

“It was a brilliant opportunity to develop my skills and resources, and work with patients, such as those from Iraq, who I hadn’t ever worked with before,” she says.

The centres – Summerfield GP and Urgent Care Centre, the Kingstanding Community Practice and Finch Road Surgery – are in Birmingham. They have high black and minority ethnic and asylum populations, who are typically hard to reach. Ms Phillips and the nurse team went out into the community to local schools, community halls and shopping centres to talk about what they could do. 

“We’d do blood pressure and glucose monitoring at local shops. It was fantastic to get people to see a healthcare professional after not having seen a GP for years,” she says.

“We started with zero registered patients, and now have 1,000 in two sites, and 3,000 in the other.” 

Ms Phillips is proud of how busy those surgeries are now and how rapidly they have grown since they opened between March and May 2010.

She now has a mix of managerial and clinical work, spending one day a week on administration and four days seeing patients. Two months ago, she was appointed Quality and Outcomes Framework lead, a commissioning role usually held by a GP, which demonstrates her budgetary control and managerial skills.

She works across the three sites, along with four practice nurses and three healthcare assistants. The advanced nurse practitioners are based at the urgent care centres, identifying where to set up sessions where there is a need, for example, for TB vaccination, or hepatitis or HIV clinics. 

Assura Medical was recently asked by the primary care trust to incorporate an asylum seeker service into the Summerfield Centre.

“There is a lot of development with Assura Medical. I have attended a number of courses and I was supported to do my nurse prescribing course.”

Ms Phillips says the nurse to patient ratio is higher than in the NHS, and the emphasis on making the business a success to retain patients means care is the focus.

“We measure their feedback closely,” she says. “They drop tokens in boxes
at the surgeries, rating how we fared on a range of areas, such as waiting times, service and resources. The system doesn’t rely on patients being literate or able to speak English. For me, this is a positive place to work.”


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