Avalon Medical Centre is the latest of 12 Hutt Valley general practices to have a full complement of Access and Choice team members on board.
This relatively new partnership model of care enhances the traditional primary care offer for those patients whose mental health and general wellbeing needs are impacting on their wider health. GPs can help people connect with a Health Improvement Practitioner, Health Coach, or Community Support Worker based in that practice and it is possible for people to ask reception to book them an appointment. The service is free of charge and focuses on priority populations especially Māori, Pasifika and people in low socio-economic areas, however the service is available to all enrolled patients at practices where the model is active.
Placing a patient at the center of care means that more general practices are seeing the wider health benefits of offering a wraparound service for their patients. Dr Alan Chin of Avalon Medical says, “It really helps having someone who is available immediately to provide a safe space for people to work through what’s on top for them”.
The Access and Choice team members can offer a mix of brief intervention therapies, navigation of social services, advocacy, peer support, coaching, healthy lifestyle advice, support to develop plans, budgeting, and housing support. For many patients, it can be a conversation with a Health Improvement Practitioner that leads to a lifestyle change that transforms their health. A person recently referred to the service said “I didn’t really understand why I shouldn’t eat sugar, even though I have diabetes, I didn’t really know what that meant. Working with the Health Coach at my practice, he helped me understand what it was, and we worked together to work out a plan for me to tackle it. Now I have way more energy and feel like I’m in control of my health.”
This model is in the final stages of rollout across the Hutt Valley, and it is expected that most general practices will have a Health Improvement Practitioner, Health Coach and Community Support Worker resource up and running by the end of 2022.