GP Practices in North Yorkshire and York are asking residents for their patience and understanding with demand for appointments returning to levels not seen since the start of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
While health leaders say it’s good news people are not ignoring symptoms of ill health and are seeking medical help, practices are facing additional pressures because of staff absences as a result of routine winter sickness and the quarantine rules associated with Covid-19 contact.
It means the wait to speak to a member of a surgery’s reception team may be a little longer than normal.
NHS North Yorkshire CCG Governing Body GP, Dr Bruce Willoughby, said: “We understand some patients are waiting longer to speak to someone when contacting their GP. We want to reassure patients that practices are open but it may take longer to get through on the phone.
“Practices are doing everything they can to continue as normal under these circumstances, but it is also very important that we keep patients and their families safe which means following the self-isolation rules when a member of staff has Covid symptoms, or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
“We hope residents can be patient with us during this time.
“If it is not an emergency, you can still get medical advice 24/7 by using the NHS 111 service; they have trained medical professionals available who can direct you to the most appropriate medical care.
“And if you want to speak to someone face-to-face you don’t always have to wait for an appointment with your doctor – if it’s a minor ailment your local pharmacy team can provide clinical advice for minor health conditions common over the winter period such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.”
Dr Andrew Lee, NHS Vale of York CCG’s Executive Director of Primary Care and Population Health said: “Primary care staff are working hard to ensure as many patients as possible can be seen face-to-face whilst keeping staff and patients safe at all times. There is a very high demand on appointments at the present time. Many of our practices are delivering appointment volumes back at or close to pre-COVID levels.
“Unfortunately, it is not easy for practices to boost the number of appointments available due to the increased time needed in between appointments to allow for enhanced cleaning processes and to manage social distancing in waiting areas to keep them safe for patients and staff.
“In addition, practices are reporting that some members of staff are self-isolating with their families due to coronavirus which is having a knock-on effect on staffing levels.
“We are continuing to strongly encourage people with a health concern to contact their GP practice online, via the NHS App or by telephone for an appointment. They will then be triaged into either a telephone, video or face-to-face appointment depending on what is most suitable for them. There are also other good sources of health advice such as local chemists and NHS 111 who may be able to help with minor illnesses.
“We appreciate it must be frustrating for patients and ask for their understanding and continued patience at this difficult time.”
Patients with symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change in taste or smell are the most common – are being asked to self-isolate and to book a test.
Patients should also be reminded to self-isolate even if they are not experiencing symptoms themselves if a member of their household has symptoms. This is to help protect their friends, families and colleagues.
Information on testing can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test