By Dr Mark Howcutt - 2nd October 2020 6:30pm
As restrictions for COVID-19 are likely to be in place until April 2021, we wanted to let you know how our appointment system will work over this time.
NHS England has advised all GP practices to use a system called "total triage". All patients will be assessed on the telephone first — "talk before you walk". Many of our patients will be familiar with triage as we have used this successfully for many years to assess the best way of meeting patients' needs based on clinical priorities.
A telephone call with a GP may result in an invitation to come to the surgery for a face-to-face appointment if clinically necessary — something we have provided throughout the pandemic. But it could also result in a video consultation, the organisation of tests, advice or treatment over the phone or referral to another service.
By triaging all requests from patients, we can ensure that people are only asked to come to the medical centre if their needs cannot be met in another way. This is important in protecting our vulnerable patients and our essential staff from the risk of infection.
When you ring the surgery, the receptionist will ask a few important questions. Our receptionists are there to help you by directing your call to the right member of the team and with the right level of priority. As you expect, all our staff follow strict rules of confidentiality.
A GP will always ring you back on the same day if your problem is clinically urgent. If your problem is routine, we will offer an on-the-day telephone appointment if we can, but a routine telephone appointment in the future if we are fully booked for that day or you prefer that.
Our nursing team continue to provide a full range of childhood immunisations. We are also offering smear tests so please get in touch if you have received a letter saying that your smear test is due. The nurses' highly skilled work of managing patients with leg ulcers and complex wounds has continued as normal.
They are also currently very busy providing flu vaccinations to our most vulnerable and high-risk patients. This process has been challenging due to country-wide problems including unprecedented demands and insufficient supplies of the vaccines nationally.
We have also continued to take blood tests. Due to the precautions needed to protect our patients and our staff, each blood test appointment is taking about twice as long as usual. This means that we can only offer half as many tests each day as normal. It is vital that we keep a certain proportion of these blood test appointments available for emergencies and those with suspected cancer or other serious illnesses. We are doing all we can to provide more appointments, but please be aware we will not be able to offer our usual number of routine blood test appointments at this time.
We continue to be very busy dealing with COVID-19 issues, non-COVID urgent problems, routine problems, trying to help with the backlog over the last six months and playing our part in the biggest flu vaccination programme in history.
We are grateful for the incredibly hard work of our team over the last six months and thank our patients for their support and understanding over this very difficult time.
Dr Mark Howcutt
Haddenham Medical Centre