- Posted Wednesday April 29, 2020
I am writing this at the end of week 5 of the lockdown and have a lot to reflect on…
So far, our practice has not been too severely affected by staff being off work, and in the case of our doctors, some of them have been able to work from home very effectively.
We are now finding an increase in patients ringing for a telephone consultation – in the first few weeks hardly anyone would ring, and appointments were left empty, but we’ve found that most of our slots are now being filled and utilised effectively.
We do though, have concerns, in line with what we are being told in the news - that patients with more complicated conditions are not seeking help early enough (if at all). I am pleased to see that there are frequent adverts and news broadcasts saying the NHS is still open for all conditions and to contact the GP as soon possible and not to ignore the symptoms. We are thinking of using our texting service to emphasise the above to our patients and reassure them we have “covid-free zones”.
Looking ahead, I can see that this Covid experience will change primary care forever – there are lessons to be learned from how we’ve reacted to this, but I hope that the skills we’ve developed and that our NHS technology in particular embrace these changes as it will help the NHS move forward in many positive ways.
Take telephone or video consultations as an example – they will never fully replace personal contact (nor should they), but we are all learning that many things can be treated in a different way and it is good to use different resources.
Like everyone else we have been utilising IT such as Zoom and Microsoft teams and that has revolutionised the way we communicate across the practices and CCG. We can now meet online our PCN colleagues and convene meetings as and when we want and feel better supported as we are all learning going through this process.
Most of the nurse’s work must be done face to face and I see no change there.
I have heard views from some doctors that if telephone consultations could replace face-to-face consultations, then the government could look at changing the funding to cover premises which are often owned by partners. However, my view is different – I think that utilising a mix of both will dramatically reduce waiting times for appointments and enable serious conditions to be picked up sooner, reducing overall costs to the NHS.
I personally think that A&E was abused in the past with people not bothering going to the GP but straight to A&E. Now reality is setting in I wonder what percentage of visits to A&E were unnecessary in the past, and so I hope we can use this period to educate the population to utilise the services responsibly.
It has been claimed that visits to A&E have fallen dramatically and that some portion of this is due to people fearing picking up the virus and so are keeping away? Personally, I do question the statement that a lot of people having heart attacks or strokes are avoiding A&E - they can only do that for so long until symptoms worsen.
Whilst we are not sure how long this will go on for and whether there will be repeated outbreaks, we can gather the knowledge of the changes we are making now, as we go along, and hopefully use some of these permanently.
How has your practice coped with the Pandemic? Let us know in the comments below. FPM Members can access the Pandemic Toolkit for a wealth of information and resources.