We hope you are all well. We realise that the last few months have been unprecedented, and may have been a time of worry and uncertainty for a lot of people. We have produced this update, to try an reassure you of how we are managing the pandemic at a practice level. As a result of the coronavirus Pandemic all GP Practices have had to change the way in which they work, and we would like to explain some of the changes that we have needed to make, and the reasons around this.
Our priority as a practice is to ensure the health and welfare of our practice population. We aim to do this by:
- Caring for those patients who are or have been infected with COVID-19.
- Ensuring that patients with conditions other than covid-19 are cared for appropriately
- Ensuring the health and welfare of the vulnerable population
- Ensuring that the practice is a safe place to be seen, by reducing the risk of virus transmission
There have been concerns that because of the coronavirus pandemic, patients with non -COVID medical problems are failing to seek help appropriately. As a result of this, there has been an increased number of deaths due to other conditions and a reduction in the number of cancer referrals. As a practice we want to make it clear that we are open, and that it is important that if you are unwell or need advice, you contact the surgery and arrange an assessment.
However, we have had to change the way we offer appointments. Due to the risk of coronavirus transmission, we only want to bring people into surgery if the problem cannot be sorted out by another means such as on-line consultation, telephone or video consultation. You can also send an eConsult through to the Surgery for triaging and this can be done 24/7, even when the Surgery is closed.
As per National Guidance, we have moved towards a “total triage system.” Whereby every patient contacting the practice will initially be triaged, and signposted by the most appropriate Clinician . If possible the problem will be dealt with by telephone or video consultation; if not, the clinician will re-book a face-to-face appointment in surgery. This may mean that your problem is not immediately dealt with on the phone, but may need to be re-booked. We ask for your patience around this.
For those patients who do need to attend surgery, it is important that we ensure that the surgery is COVID-safe. In order to do this the following measures have been implemented:
- All patients who are suspected of having coronavirus will not be brought down to surgery, because we are trying to keep the surgery free from infection. They will be asked to attend a central COVID clinic at Albion Street, St Helens, where they will be seen and assessed by either a local GP or a specialist nurse. This applies to all patients in St Helens. We understand that some patients prefer to see their own GP, but in order to keep the surgery free from infection, to protect staff and other patients, we are not able to accommodate this, and would ask for your co-operation in this matter
- The same applies to a visit request for a patient with suspected coronavirus. The visit will be carried out by St Helen’s Acute Visiting Scheme, rather than your own GP. This is to avoid infection being brought back into surgery by the GP. Again we ask for your co-operation with this.
- All clinical staff will wear full PPE and reception staff will wear masks
- We will ask all patients to attend surgery wearing a face covering -mask, bandana or scarf, that covers the nose and mouth. If this is not possible due to physical or mental health problems, please speak to the GP, and we will work around this. We realise and accept that this may not be appropriate for some young children.
- To limit the number of patients in the building at any one time, you may be asked to wait in your car until the Doctor comes to collect you or calls you on your mobile.
- The Clinicians will change their PPE between each patient and the room will be thoroughly cleaned between each patient, including cleaning surfaces, equipment and door handles.
Unfortunately, because of the need to collect patients from their cars, change PPE and clean the room between each patient, we have had to change routine face to face appointments from 10 mins to 20 mins. This means that we have a reduced number of appointments. Unfortunately we also have a reduced number staff, as some need to shield. This inevitably means that there are less appointments available, and that the wait for appointments is likely to increase, particularly as we approach the winter months. We have no control over this, and are working as hard as we can, we would ask for your patience and understanding in this matter. Please do not to vent any frustrations on the reception staff.
We will endeavour to keep you informed and up to date on any changes within the practice, in this ever evolving situation.
If you have any queries about the how the practice is operating, please contact the Practice Manager, Mrs Helen Sansbury.
We hope you continue to keep safe and well
Dr J Lowcock, Dr U Veltkamp, and Dr C Morgan