***Coronavirus update 24/03/2020 – IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING CHANGES TO OUR PRACTICE OPERATIONS ***
Please read – We appreciate the email is long but we want to share as much information with you as possible.
We want to update you regarding GP services at this time. We understand that these are unprecedented times and as frontline NHS healthcare workers we are all going above and beyond to support our patients, but this does mean significant changes to the way we operate. Thank you to all our incredibly supportive patients that have thanked our team, sent notes of appreciation and recognise how hard our whole team has been working to deal with the extra workload at this time. It does really help keep our spirits up at this busy time. Demand for our services has increased by 30 - 40% over the last 2 weeks, whilst at the same time we have less staff to deal with the work.
All of the measures we have put in place over the past 2 weeks and going forward are following guidance from Public Heath England and are being implemented across many GP practices in the UK. It is all about keeping you safe, minimising your exposure to patients with COVID-19 symptoms and saving lives of the most vulnerable people in our Community. At the same time we need to keep our teams safe and well so they can keep on working to provide patient care.
***WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?***
We continue with a total telephone triage model and we ask you to contact the surgery either through telephone or eConsult in the first instance. This enables you to receive advice and care without attending the practice in person. Only if the GP or Nurse does need to physically see you, they will still ask you to present at the surgery. In such cases, risks for both the patient and our staff will have been assessed. Please note we are not closed and we will continue to see those patients that absolutely require it. In doing this, we reduce footfall through the surgery thereby minimising the risk of any transmission to staff and patients alike.
During this period, we will be operating a closed door policy. Please do not attend the practice for any reason unless a Clinician has asked you to do so and given you an appointment.
Nurses will endeavour to continue to provide care when it is deemed medically necessary but some non-essential care will not be undertaken in the surgery during this exceptional period. So we can manage current and future staff shortages, appointments will only be available a few days ahead.
Arriving at Albany Surgery for a pre-booked appointment only
At times we will have patients on site with COVID-19 symptoms and so it is essential you follow all of our advice and guidance when you arrive at the practice. We are carefully timing appointments so that patients with COVID-19 symptoms are kept separate from those without. They are also seen in a separate isolation area within the practice. It is important you arrive on time and if patients arrive late to the appointment they may not be seen.
If you are given an appointment to attend in person, ring the buzzer at the side of the main entrance upon arrival and a member of the team will let you in. Please follow their instructions about where in the building you need to go to avoid risk to yourself and others. Any attempt to enter the building without a prior appointment will be refused and patients will need to call the main number for all queries, appointments and advice.
In some circumstances you may be greeted by a Clinician wearing a mask, gloves and apron and you may be given a mask and gloves to wear yourself. Please do not be alarmed. We ask that you follow the instructions given at all times.
What if I have COVID-19 symptoms?
If you have symptoms, a temperature above 37.8c AND/OR a persistent cough you need to go online to www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19. Please only call 111 if you cannot get online. Please do not call or come to the GP surgery and follow the online guidance around self-isolation. We do not receive any further or additional advice than is available here, so please do not call the surgery to ask us our opinion on whether you should isolate or not, just follow the advice.
The safest option for our patients and staff is for all prescriptions to be done electronically and sent to your nominated pharmacy. This is going to be a busy time in the surgery and it may take up to 72 hours for your prescription to be authorised and sent to the pharmacy. We would encourage everyone to try and order their repeat prescriptions using either their online account or using the NHS App (can be downloaded onto any smartphone). The prescription telephone line will be open for those that cannot access a computer. If you are unable to request on line or via the telephone, then you will need to hand in a paper request via the letterbox to the left of our main entrance. Please leave this option as a last resort to minimise spread of coronavirus. Please bear with us as with self-isolation rules we have less staff available to answer the phones at this extremely busy time.
**Please do not contact us unless your prescription is due as we cannot issue it early or give you more just in case - the pharmacies have just enough for everyone and you having more would leave others without. Also we can’t give you an inhaler even though you had one 5 years ago when you had a bad cough - just in case - I know it’s scary but lots of people really need these inhalers and if you get one just in case they might not be able to get one that they really need. We also cannot prescribe Paracetamol because you’re struggling to get it**
We are experiencing extremely high call volumes on our prescription line and most of this is from patients whose prescription is not due or asking for things they can’t have, which is blocking those patients with a genuine need from getting through. Please do use online options where possible.
We have been made aware of some inaccurate information circulating regarding special ‘rescue packs’ for patients with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients will already have a COPD/asthma rescue pack if you are in the cohort of patients that this is intended for, and will be part of your annual review & included within your care plan. Please do not contact your GP practice for a rescue pack, unless your rescue pack needs replacing. You should continue to manage your condition in the usual way and if you feel you have symptoms of COVID-19, go to https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 before doing anything else.
High Risk Patients
Patients that fall into the extremely high risk category have been written to by the government with further guidance and advice. Please note that we do not have any further information we can give patients. If you fall into any of the at risk categories requiring social distancing you need to follow the advice and you do not need to call us to ask if it applies to you – if your condition is on the list, it applies to you. We encourage all our patients to socially distance at this time to stop the spread of the virus.
So that we can provide the urgent essential care at this time we are postponing routine work until after the Coronavirus outbreak ends. This includes mild self-limiting illnesses (treatment advice can be found online or from a pharmacy for these), coils checks and changes, minor surgery, ear syringing, insurance reports, medicals, non-urgent paperwork and DVLA medical examinations. We will continue to review this list as it may be necessary to restrict other types of work depending upon the staffing levels that day or week. This work could include things such as skin lesions, chronic pain management, injuries, MED 3 requests and ENT problems. When you contact us for an appointment we will let you know if we are not dealing with a particular type of complaint at the time. Please do think twice about contacting the practice at this time so we can keep our clinicians free for those that require urgent care. If you do need to contact us please use online or E-consult where possible.
Self – teaching
We will shortly be sharing information with those patients that require ongoing wound dressings and injections with information for them to undertake these procedures at home if they wish and if it is appropriate. This will only be relevant in some cases and we will send out details and support over the coming weeks.
We know these are worrying times for everyone and we are extremely sorry that we have had to introduce these measures. The decisions regarding the changes to our usual operations have not been made lightly. They follow the guidance on managing the outbreak and spread of Coronavirus and they are in line with changes being made to all GP practices across the UK so that we can prioritise care to those with an urgent need and the vulnerable.
We are offering other ways of accessing the practice such as eConsult, online access and the NHS app. We have no idea at present how long this disruption is likely to continue for, so we ask that all of our patients are kind to our team. It’s a very worrying and stressful time for them also and they are working long hours to keep providing patient care.
We are working with all our neighbouring practices across Newton Abbot and it is likely that GP services will continue to evolve further over the coming weeks and as the outbreak continues to peak patients will be required to travel between different surgeries and towns to be seen. By putting these measures in place we are hoping to keep our practice open as long as possible to keep serving our Community.
With thanks for your support at this time,
The Albany Surgery Team
***What can you do to help support us at this time? PLEASE READ***
*Please only contact us if it is absolutely necessary. We are prioritising urgent care at this time so you may be asked to call back later for routine and non-urgent queries. If it can wait please do so. There are many ways you can access self-help, including visiting our website, using eConsult, your local pharmacy and visiting www.nhs.uk
*Where possible please use our Web Based service, eConsult. This allows you to self-check their symptoms and, if appropriate your consultation will be sent to a GP within the practice who will act on it in 24 hours. We can deal with 2 or 3 eConsults in the time it takes to do 1 phone call. Please visit http://www.albanysurgery.co.uk to use this service.
*Please don’t call us for advice about whether you should self-isolate or socially isolate All of the advice is available online at www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19 and we ask you to follow all the advice and guidance - we do not receive any further or additional advice than is available here.
*Please sign up to the NHS App or our online service via our website and ensure we have up to date email and mobile phone numbers for you. This may take a little bit of time up front but once set up it will easier for you to access our services over the coming months and quicker for us to deal with your requests, particularly prescription requests.
*If you have friends or family that have not set up emails and online access, please help them to get set up so they can continue to access our services.
*Please do not try to request an early prescription or a longer prescription. The pharmacies have the correct stock for usual repeats. If one person orders more,or earlier this will leave others without medication.
***What are we doing to help you?***
*We are seeing COVID-19 symptomatic patients at separate times from other patients and in a separate isolate area. Clinicians that see these patients will not see non-symptomatic patients the same day.
· *We have introduced hourly cleans of all door handles, railing and work surfaces.
· *Each clinical rooms is cleaned down between patients.
· *Clinicians and staff in self-isolation are still working from home to deal with patients where possible.
· *We are working with our neighbouring practices in Newton Abbot so we can continue to support each other with patient care in the coming months.
Dr Jocelyn Glenton