There has been much recent publicity about GP surgeries opening their doors to patients once again and the NHS in England has produced a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) giving guidance on this. Our doors have never been closed and we have continued to offer face to face appointment where required throughout the pandemic.
We recognise that as restrictions ease across the UK, the balance is likely to shift more towards traditional face-to-face appointments. While earlier SOPs instructed us to minimise footfall through the practice with a “telephone/e-consult first” approach to protect patients and staff, this latest version instructs us to open up more to accommodate walk-ins and patients who request a traditional consultation. So what is the best way to get the help you need?
First, ask yourself whether we are the right service to contact? Our telephone lines are swamped at the moment so please think before you call and make the most of your local pharmacy, the national helplines and online resources (see below). And if you have a medical emergency dial 999.
It’s only natural to want to speak to your GP if you are worried about chest pain, or think your partner is having a funny turn. However, if you are in the early stages of a stroke or heart attack every minute counts. The latest treatments can only be offered in hospital and there is a limited window of opportunity to improve survival and long-term recovery.
We can dial 999 from the practice but during busy times you may be downgraded below someone who rings from home, delaying your transfer because you are in a safer place. In an emergency always call 999 first.
While we can now meet indoors and have a pint inside a pub, we very much doubt we will be going back to crowded pre-pandemic GP waiting rooms. They were never a healthy place to sit and the fewer people we have in the surgery the better (particularly as new variants of coronavirus continue to emerge). So, even with the changes this week, we will continue to encourage initial contact via phone or email, offering face-to-face appointments where required and appropriate.
We know from experience that our telephone triage system can save you time. For example, if you are worried about heavy periods and are feeling exhausted then we may want to do a blood test to exclude anaemia or other concerns before a face to face consultation with the benefit of the results. Careful triage reduces unnecessary appointments and can mean you get the most appropriate care. Done properly it enhances care and should not be an obstacle.
If you are contacting the surgery for advice about non-urgent problems and you have access to a computer or mobile phone, please use e-consult. Go to our website www.parkburyhouse.nhs.uk and click on ‘online consult’ at the bottom of the home page. – we will respond within 2 working days. You can also contact us through patient online access. You can find out more about signing up for Patient Access on our website www.parkburyhouse.nhs.uk/patient-online-access.
Social distancing and basic measures such as wearing a mask will remain important in medical settings for some time. Given the nature of who comes to our practice and why sitting in a GP surgery is likely to remain something best avoided.
We are open and here for you, but just a bit stretched at the moment, not least because of the added burden of the vaccination programme, which we have recently been asked to accelerate to help mitigate the threat from the Indian variant.
Directory of helpline and online resources
- Your Pharmacy Call your pharmacy about any minor illness or ailment. They will direct you to call the GP if they can’t help you. But please call them first.
- 111 Call if you think you need medical treatment or advice promptly but are unsure who to contact or where to go. Only call for services that aren’t offered by your GP.
- 119 for Covid vaccine-related queries, (written evidence that you have been vaccinated can be downloaded from the NHS App)
- 999 Call in a medical emergency such as chest pain, a suspected stroke, severe bleeding, burns or scalds, sepsis, head/hip injuries in a fall etc.
- Please do not use 999 for non-urgent issues (running out of blood pressure pills and constipation — both real examples I have seen — are not emergencies).