Data reveals intense pressure on GPs ...
New data released by the NHS covering Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and part of Somerset has thrown a spotlight on the huge increase in workload faced by GP practices as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of appointments offered has risen by an average of 11.8% compared to July two years ago – with Hampshire facing the biggest increase at 16.4%, followed by Wiltshire and part of Somerset combined at 13.2%. The increase was less, but still sizeable, in Dorset at 8.8%. The data includes towns such as Swindon, Fareham and Gosport, Southampton and Portsmouth, as well as the Isle of Wight.
As well as a GP shortage, there has been further pressure caused by population growth, a rise in people seeking mental health support and a backlog of routine treatment. GP surgeries have also had to adapt to new ways of working, introduced new technology for online appointments and given Covid patients oxygen saturation equipment to monitor them remotely. They have also carried out far more flu jabs than ever before.
Wessex Local Medical Committees (LMC), which represents the region’s GPs and practices, is urging patients to be far more understanding of the pressure their local surgeries are under.
Dr Gareth Bryant, Acting Chief Executive of the LMC and a GP in Wiltshire, said: “We are not looking for sympathy, just a better understanding of what we are coping with. Our GP practices have faced unprecedented demand, partly due to delivering the Covid vaccination programme and supporting patients who are ill with coronavirus, and also because they are being affected by the backlog elsewhere in the NHS.
“At the same time, there is a national shortage of GPs and practices are adapting as best they can by recruiting other staff to their teams such a physiotherapists, mental health practitioners and pharmacists. They are trying to get through appointments as best they can but there may be some delays. The Government has promised that more GPs will be recruited but it’s not happening at the speed or the levels we need.
“Our teams have put themselves in the frontline and been exposed to considerable personal risk, sometimes at the expense of their own physical, mental, and families’ health. We have sadly lost colleagues and loved ones to this terrible virus too. Many staff in the NHS are stressed and burnt out.
“We want to encourage people to give their support to their GP practice, whose staff are being kind, patient and responsible, and who are doing everything they can to support their local communities in such difficult circumstances. Our practices in the Wessex area are rated as good by over 83% of the public and even higher in most places – above the national average.”
One of the reasons for the increase in appointments undertaken, even taking into account that over 50,000 people a month fail to attend their appointments, is the rise of email, phone calls and video appointments, up 132.77% from 276,590 in July two years ago, to 643,807 this July. Face-to-face appointments are down 11.43% on average.
LMC Medical Director Dr Andy Purbrick, a GP Partner in Dorset, added: “As independent businesses, GPs have responded extremely well to the challenges of the pandemic and shown themselves to be resilient, adaptable and innovative in the way they protect both patients and staff. They should be praised for the ways in which they have adjusted, including introducing additional technology and communication channels. However, the appointment can often take longer online and result in asking someone to come in to see their GP, duplicating the time involved.
“GPs much prefer to see people face to face, recognising that many ailments cannot be effectively picked up over a phone call or email, and over half of the appointments are being done this way. However, their priority is to keep everyone safe and for many people, online technology or phone call is a more effective way of communicating when it comes to issues that are less serious.”
Telephoning the Surgery
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Advice for patients with Hayfever
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For COVID-19 vaccinations please contact the National Booking Service to make an appointment - not your GP practice. All local sites are now available through the National Booking Service online or by calling 119 and it's the best way to get an appointment for both 1st and 2nd doses if you don’t have an appointment already. Please don't hesitate, when it's your turn to be vaccinated please do so as soon as possible. The NHS appreciates that at times the system can be busy and but be assured we will make sure everyone is offered the opportunity to be immunised so please keep trying. New clinics are being set up all the time at various locations including some community pharmacies so your patience is appreciated.
NHS App to show COVID vaccination status
COVID-19 vaccination status can be accessed through the NHS App from 17 May. The service will not require data provided through the GP record.
People should register with the NHS App before booking international travel, at least two weeks before their departure date once they’ve completed a full course of vaccinations.
Those without a smartphone are being asked to call the NHS helpline on 119 from 17 May and ask for a letter to be posted to them.
We are encouraging the public not to contact their GP surgery about this as GPs will not be providing letters to show COVID-19 vaccination status.
You can find out more about demonstrating COVID-19 vaccination status and how the NHS App protects data here.
COVID INFORMATION FOR PARENTS
This is a very challenging time we find ourselves in and there is understandably a lot of anxiety in the community around school age children, their risk from COVID-19 and the potential impact of school absence both for that child and for the family as a whole. The information below is to try to help you access good, up-to-date information to help us all work together over the next few months.
1. Symptoms of coronavirus in children
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot, for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
- a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – this means they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
Please be reassured that if your child has symptoms of the usual winter bugs eg: runny nose or sore throat but DOES NOT have any of the symptoms listed above then they can still go to school.
2. What to do if your child has the above symptoms
If your child has any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:
- Get a test to check if they have coronavirus as soon as possible - please be aware that you cannot under any circumstances get a test through your GP surgery so please do not ring for this purpose alone. You can ONLY get a test through 'NHS 111 online' OR by ringing 119 if you do not have access to the internet.
- Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get the test result – only leave your home to have a test. Please only order a test for the person in your household who has symptoms. These tests are NOT for individuals who do not have symptoms.
Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get the result.
What you can do to decide if your child needs to see a GP
If you are worried about your child please click on the link below to an excellent website called 'Healthier Together' where there is lots of very useful information about managing illness in children:
It is important to remember that COVID-19 appears to generally cause mild illness in children. Only about 1 in every 100 cases diagnosed in the UK have been in children and infection is generally far milder in children than it is in adults, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case. Once you have looked at your child's symptoms if you are still concerned and think they need to be seen then please either:
- access NHS 111 online OR ring 111 for COVID-19 symptoms
- if you do not think your child's illness is due to COVID-19 then please contact the surgery.
Refurbishment of Waiting Room
Our waiting room and reception is now open again. We apologise for the inconvenience during this essential building work and hope you like our new look!
Dr Catrinel Wright's Blog
Dr Wright has written some helpful advice for those struggling with mental health issues during the current pandemic. Please click here to read it.