As we approach the end of another year and almost 2 years in to the Covid-19 pandemic, we felt it important to address some of the negative press and feedback surrounding General Practice – especially over the last few months.
In recent months, much has been said regarding the difficulties patients face accessing GP appointments. We want you to know we recognise and share the frustrations many patients have expressed.
At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, many general practices adapted within days, to allow patients to be seen via virtual appointments or phone consultations. As the risks at the time were high and largely unknown, these new ways or working enabled us to continue to care for patients and keep patients and our staff as safe as possible.
Over the past five years, life has become busier and as technology develops, we have been encouraged to adapt to allow access in new and different ways. However, it has remained the case that if patients need to be seen face to face, then they are.
GPs, like hospitals, have been following Government guidance for healthcare settings and, even given recent changes to the national guidelines; social distancing and the wearing of personal protective equipment must continue. These measures are there to keep patients and our staff safe.
Many patients attending a GP surgery are unwell, vulnerable and include some who have symptoms that could mean they have COVID-19 and they may not even know it. No one, either patients or GPs, wants their practice to have to close because their staff have become infected with COVID-19, and no one wants a patient to leave the surgery with an infection they did not have when they arrived at their practice.
We as a surgery have had to adapt by offering a mix of appointment types and staggering the number of patients who attend at once. To maintain social distancing requirements, we have to limit the number of people who can walk-in without an appointment when others are also in the waiting room. As a result, the number of patients that can be physically accommodated in GP practices is less than before the pandemic, so more patients than previously are now offered appointments in other ways.
We understand the difficulties and frustrations patients face accessing GP appointments. Alongside patients who have new medical problems, there are also large numbers on waiting lists who have not been able to get the care they need from their hospital in the past 18 months – a backlog that has grown hugely since the pandemic struck. In addition, there is a huge amount of clinical admin that is dealt with behind the scenes. General Practice are doing their absolute best, day in, day out, to provide care to all their patients in the safest way possible, despite a national decline in GP numbers since March 2020 and an increase in workload. Whilst we cannot list all the work that goes in to making a practice run, we hope the visual at the end of this post will provide an idea of just some of what happens behind the scenes.
We ask for your understanding and support during this difficult period. Our staff have worked and continue to work many additional hours over the last 18 months and have faced challenges that none of us ever imagined we would come across. We ask that you continue to treat our team with the kindness and the respect they deserve. The NHS runs on a great deal of goodwill, the team work incredibly hard and retaining and recruiting staff is an ongoing issue for the NHS. Verbal or physical abuse cannot be tolerated and places people at greater risk of reducing their hours or giving up entirely, which will further exacerbate the situation we are all in.
This is not the way we want it to be, and it is not the way that GPs and practice staff across the country want it to be. As a profession, however, general practice faces a pre-existing workforce crisis worsened by the pandemic.
We will continue to communicate with our patients as best we can during this time. We aim to publish a regular surgery update within the yellow Woodingdean Community Newsletter as well as our website. The next community newsletter will be available in December.
Constructive feedback, improvements and discussions are of course important and we hold regular discussions through our Patient Participation Group (PPG) group. If you would like to help the surgery, we welcome new PPG members.
Thank you for your patience, kindness and understanding during this difficult time. We are very grateful for all the positive messages we have received; these really help the team keep going through these difficult times.
Woodingdean Medical Centre