GP practices across North Yorkshire are working hard to respond to challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past few months the day-to-day routine of a GP practice has changed with staff and patients seeing a very different approach.
NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been speaking with frontline staff at local GP practices to understand how the outbreak has affected them and their patients.
Dr Madeleine Locke, Nidderdale Group Practice GP said:
“In March when it became evident that COVID-19 was here and a lockdown was imminent we had to completely change conventional general practice and in the space of three weeks, we successfully did this. We have now moved to a full telephone triage of all patients whether they need to see a nurse, health care assistant or doctor. To minimise risks to staff and patients we are consulting with patients remotely as much as we can by doing telephone, video and e-consultations.
“Where a patient does need to be seen, we are bringing them down to the surgery at specified times and controlled measures are in place to minimise contact with others. Patients are screened at the door and have their temperature checked. All health care professionals are wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) for every patient contact to protect staff and patients. We also have screens at reception desks and are dispensing medication through windows to reduce footfall through the surgery.
“Given our rural location we have also been providing thermometers and oxygen saturation probes to patients to take home so that they can confidently monitor their COVID-19 illness and contact us as needed.”
In response to how well patients appear to be coping with the changes, Dr Rebecca Owen, Harewood Medical Practice GP said: “I think generally our patients have responded very well to the changes. They have been understanding and lots have expressed gratitude about the measures we have put in place to keep them safe.
“The most striking difference is the reduction in daily calls to the practice. The demand for appointments has reduced. It would seem the social distancing has also worked to reduce the spread of other infections. I feel that the patients have taken notice of the advice and are trying to only use the services when needed.
“I have been encouraged by messages of support and I feel as a profession we are valued when in recent years I have not always felt like this.”
All practices have had to make significant changes to the way they work in a very short space of time. These changes present new experiences both practically and emotionally as shared by Melanie Dunwell, Practice Nurse Manager for Whitby Group Practice: “Personally I’ve felt better for having a very different challenge to rise to. This has caused an unprecedented change to our ways of working and I feel proud to be part of this challenge. In addition, I feel the practice team as a whole have been working more closely together and it has made us appreciate one another’s roles.”
Once the country starts to see a change in the way interaction can take place, GP practices are advising patients that they can still access the care they need but there will still be a way to go before they resemble ‘the norm’: “I would like to remind patients that General Practice is open; but we have reduced face to face appointments. It’s not the right time to sort out minor problems patients have been experiencing for ages but if you have a new symptom that is worrying you we are here and we are happy to advise you.” said, Melanie.
Dr Charles Parker, Clinical Chair of the CCG said:
“On behalf of the CCG and the North Yorkshire healthcare system, I would like to express my sincere admiration and gratitude for the outstanding efforts practices and their staff have made over the last couple of months.
“In all my years working in general practice, I have never experienced anything like the impact of the pandemic. We must not underestimate the amount of effort adapting to the current situation has taken for our front line staff and that very much includes those in general practice, whether it’s your local GP, practice nurse or practice manager.
“We would still like to urge patients to reach out to their GP practice, particularly with serious illnesses or if you or your child require an important vaccination. It can be very dangerous to put off getting seen as you can put yourself at risk of late diagnosis of things such as cancer, heart attacks and stroke.
“If you are not sure about whether you can manage a condition yourself, there is also excellent advice available 24 hours a day through NHS111 Online.”
GP services, pharmacies, NHS 111, out-of-hours services and emergency departments are all still available to patients showing non-COVID-19 symptoms.
For further advice on how to best use the NHS visit: https://www.nhs.uk/
Patients can also continue order repeat prescriptions on the NHS App and through their GP practice website, where available. Find out more about ordering medicines online at www.nhs.uk