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Medical Centre: Latest Update

by Dr Mark Howcutt – 14th July 2020
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With the gradual easing of lockdown measures, here are some clarifications from Dr Mark Howcutt

"Why aren't things back to normal yet?"
We are having an unprecedented number of patients ring the surgery for help. Some are expecting a normal service and are disappointed when they find out that it is not. Unfortunately, like the rest of the NHS, we cannot provide a normal service at the moment.

We will need to continue to work differently for some time. The COVID-19 virus is still circulating in the community. Therefore, we must continue to work hard to protect our patients and our staff with strict infection control measures, and for the same reason, hospital services are still not working normally.

These measures are essential if we are to prepare for a possible second peak which, the experience of other pandemics tells us, could be even more devastating than the first peak of the illness.

"I understand that the surgery is not at all busy at the moment."
We have heard from some patients that they believe that the surgery is not busy currently. This could not be further from the truth – we are busier than ever! Although we are not having so many patients come into the surgery for appointments, we are incredibly busy.

On Monday 6th July, for example, we had a record number of phone calls into the surgery for the doctors to deal with. More calls were received on that day than even at our busiest day in winter during a flu outbreak! This is a combination of factors:

* We are still dealing with all our normal urgent calls.
* COVID-19 is still causing mental and physical illness in our community. These issues have not gone away despite the easing of lockdown.
* We are currently trying to restart some normal routine work and to start to deal with the backlog of problems from over the last four months as routine care by us and the hospitals had to be been postponed.

A further impact of the current situation is that our face-to-face appointments take longer now. We must put on Personal Protective Equipment, take it off at the end, and thoroughly clean the clinical areas between patients. It is vital to us that we do all that we can to protect you and our staff.

Also, a lot of the usual services we rely upon at the hospital or in the community are still not working normally. It often takes much longer to work around the new processes and systems so that we get the right help for our patients.

"Why can't you squeeze me in for my blood test? It only takes 5 minutes."
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 we cannot just squeeze in extra patients for routine blood tests and keep everyone safe. We can assure you that all our staff are working very hard.

"What do you need people to do to help?"
We know that things are still difficult for everyone and we thank you for all the ways that you have been helping us to keep people safe and well. You can continue to support us in the following ways:

* Please observe all the systems which we have put in place, such as wearing a mask where appropriate, following the one-way signs and coming to the surgery only when called in by a member of our team.
* Please remember that our staff are working under a great amount of pressure just now. Our reception staff would greatly benefit from a kind word or two! They are dealing with a lot of worried and sometimes angry patients and this can take its toll on these important people in our community.
* Finally, please look after yourselves. Follow the guidance to limit unnecessary contact with others, keep 2m away from others in public (1m with mitigations such as masks). Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle as far as you can in these difficult times.

Look after each other.

Dr Mark Howcutt
Haddenham Medical Centre

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