The COVID 19 pandemic has challenged the NHS in an unprecedented fashion; the impact on General Practice has been profound. As we emerge out of the eye of the storm it is necessary for us to reflect on the changes we have seen and what, amongst those changes, should remain embedded in what we do and what ongoing changes we need to make, to meet a demand that has very clearly tipped the capacity to deliver it. It is essential that we are clear thinking and dynamic in the changes that we make to ensure care is driven in a correctly prioritised fashion. However hard we work, we remain a finite resource.
As we have previously said, at the start of the pandemic, the Government mandated all practices to work in certain ways – for example telephone first etc – as numbers have changed through the year we have increased and decreased our precautions accordingly. We have seen patients face to face throughout and the numbers of consultations is higher than ever.
We have been looking forward to getting back to more normal. The real value of what we do is the relationship you have with your GP. Of course, for many patients telephone consultations are still preferred and can provide the same level of medical care for certain things. We also understand that, in some cases face to face appointments are necessary and that some patients prefer to come into the surgery. So, as we did before the Pandemic, we will offer both – face to face and telephone. We know that this strikes a really good balance between good patient care and patient preference.
Our appointment book is planned through to 5th June and in the next few weeks we will be opening up more appointments with the ability to book routine face to face appointments. We have to plan this really carefully as, by offering these appointments, there will be less ability to respond to patients within the 24 / 48 hour turnaround we are currently working to. We need some time to do this to ensure deliverability and clinical safety and this is why there will be a delay in us making these appointments available.
Of course Covid is still around, and particularly with the risk of the new Indian variant rising, having lots of unwell people close together in the waiting room isn’t safe either. We are working with our estates team and infection control advisors to develop a plan to open the waiting room from 21st June. If we are able to put measures in place to complete this work ahead of this date then we will do this however, our main concerns are around keeping patients and staff safe.
For everyone to be safe, and to avoid outbreaks in the practice which will reduce our capacity due to staff needing to isolate, it is REALLY important that all those coming into the practice follow the Covid rules. This means not coming in if you have a temperature, cough, loss of taste or smell. It also means taking a PCR test if advised, and not relying on the lateral flow tests – these are for screening when you have NO symptoms.
Please also note that whilst having the vaccination gives you very good protection, there is a risk you can still get Covid (but if you do, you should be less unwell) and you can still give it to other people. If everyone understands this, and isolates when they have symptoms or a positive test in the household, it should mean cases stay low, even as lockdown eases further.
Please be reassured; we want to provide a personal service not an impersonal service. The ethos of care remains the same – patient centred, family medicine- it is a rich vein that remains in the bedrock of the practice but it has to be dovetailed into this intensely challenging scenario.
Thank you for your understanding and support.