A common question at the moment is “When are GP’s going to reopen?” – the simple answer is: we were never closed.
Covid-19 and how it changed the way we work
When national lockdowns started, NHS England wrote to all GP practices to advise that we should change our systems and only see patients face to face if absolutely clinically necessary. We were advised to reduce the footfall in practices and to work remotely where possible. The reason? Because GP practices see some of the most vulnerable people on a day to day basis. In addition to this, our workforce needed to be protected in order to deliver the covid-19 vaccine programme, which is the largest vaccination programme in British history.
GP practices were asked to organise and deliver vaccines with an aim of vaccinating 2 million people per week nationwide. Logistically, this was difficult to organise with social distancing, lockdown restrictions and patients and staff shielding. It became even more difficult when vaccine delivery schedules were delayed, stock was low or practices would only be given 48 hours’ notice of a delivery, which would then mean practices would need to contact thousands of patients within 48 hours.
Day to day work did not stop…
Throughout the vaccination programme, patients still required medication each day, patients still needed to speak to GP’s and nurses about urgent and routine issues. Patients whose routine and urgent hospital reviews and procedures were cancelled or postponed were relying on their GP more than ever to help them manage their conditions until they could be seen in secondary care which means the GPs are dealing with a higher volume of patients, this is still widely the case as outside services are slowly reopening.
Call volumes to practices rose drastically due to patients seeking clarification on isolation guidelines, testing queries, shielding queries, vaccination queries and general anxieties caused by the pandemic.
All this time, practices were continuing with their day to day work and were also expected to release their staff to coordinate and deliver the vaccination programme. Hobs Moat Medical Centre has just over 11,600 patients, All patients over the age of 18 have been offered the covid vaccine and most who have wanted it have been vaccinated. Each patient has required two doses. Day to day work continued whilst covid vaccinations were being delivered, practices saw their staff repeatedly self–isolating and staff shielding.
At Hobs Moat Medical Centre, our telephone data shows an increase from March 2020 to March 2021 of 300% in phone calls coming into the practice. Our staff have coped tremendously through these difficult times.
So when are we going to reopen?
Well, our doors are still shut at present, but this is to control the amount of people in the waiting room at any one time, not to shut everyone out altogether. You can gain access to the premises by pressing the buzzer which is set up in our porch area. Please only press the buzzer ONCE as our staff may be tied up with another patient or on the telephone, they know you are waiting and will get to you as soon as they can. Our GP’s are keen to see more patients face to face as this is a preferred way of consultation for most. We do however, still need to be mindful that patients visiting us or their family members may be vulnerable and although all our staff are double vaccinated and a lot of our adult patients are double vaccinated, this doesn’t stop people from getting or passing on the virus.
We recognise that our phone wait times are longer than ever before at present, but our staff are here working tirelessly. It is not that we are “closed” or “not answering the phone” it is that we have more demand than before. At Hobs Moat Medical Practice, we are recruiting additional staff with an aim to improve how we cope with the additional demand on our services.
We are aware that local pharmacies offer minor ailment services and can deal with a range of patient presentations under the scheme called The NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS). This is a national Advanced Service to refer patients requiring low acuity advice, treatment and urgent repeat prescriptions to community pharmacies. The service aims to reduce pressure on the primary and urgent care system, particularly Accident and Emergency and GP out of hours. The service covers the following:
- Bites and stings
- Ear issues
- Eye issues
- Gastric/bowel issues
- Gynaecological issues such as discharge and thrush
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Skin complaints, including acne, athletes foot, blisters, dermatitis and hair loss
- Cold sores
- Flu like symptoms
Please click the link below to watch a video that explains this service in more detail.
Please watch the video below to find out how you can use the CPCS service to access an emergency prescription when we are closed.
We have recruited an Advanced Nurse Practitioner who will join us in September 2021, she will be working 6 sessions per week providing a mixture of face to face and telephone appointments. We are also started to explore other support roles. We have a practice pharmacist who works with us one day per week. He is a highly experienced pharmacist who can assess and treat certain conditions, he also has a broad knowledge of medication and can carry out medication reviews with patients. We have a Physician’s Associate who looks after some of our vulnerable groups of patients including our care home patients. We are also exploring the possibility of adding a First Care Practitioner (FCP) role into the practice, this will be someone who specialises in Musculoskeletal issues and can see patients who are presenting with a range of issues.
Our staff are doing their best, so please be kind.