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How to get the most out of your GP practice

The world in general, but particularly that of medicine, has changed significantly in the past 18 months. This has resulted in many significant changes to the way your GP practice works – some of which we hope will be short term but some which may be here to stay.

With the help of our Patient Participation Group we have come up with a short list of frequently asked questions regarding accessing primary care services in the hope that this will help you to understand how the team currently works and how to get the best possible service in the most convenient manner.

We have significantly increased our telephone line capacity and reception staff to try to cope with the increased demand of the pandemic but some mornings we receive over 700 calls in 2 hours, which cannot be managed no matter how hard we try.

If your need is an emergency please ring 999, if not then 111 is an alternative option though there can also be waiting times on this service.

There are certain instances where ringing the surgery is not the best option. If you have a query regarding hospital appointments these should be addressed to the hospital in question as they are better placed to give you accurate information. If you have queries regarding covid isolation/ vaccination/tests etc then the government website or ringing 119 is the best up to date source of information. Please be aware we hear about changes to policies at the same time as you on the news and it can take several days for this to be passed on in an official capacity to us!

You can also contact the surgery online via our website – just scroll down on our home page and follow the instructions (you can do this on a computer or smart phone). All messages are reviewed within 24h on every working day so are ideal for non-urgent enquiries. You can also email if this suits you better.

The primary care team is made up of many different highly qualified professionals now – not just the GP and practice nurse (see later point regarding the GP surgery team).

The reception team are trained to ask relevant questions to ensure that people are seen by the most appropriate individual relevant to their needs. This is often NOT the GP. They also try to assess (triage) the degree of urgency with which someone must be assessed based on guidance we have set out, but please use your own discretion to advise of the urgency of your need. This means that those with the most urgent needs can be prioritised.

These are pressing times and although we all would wish to be seen as quickly as possible there are not sufficient resources to meet this demand and clinical prioritisation needs to take place to ensure the safety of our patient population.

You can order your medications in several ways. The most efficient is to use our online service – please look at our website for more details and, if necessary, speak to our reception staff to get enrolled for patient access. This enables you to request medicines at a time convenient to you and is the most secure route. You can also request items over the phone. We have a dedicated answer machine where requests can be left. In person, please go to the dispensary window and speak to a member of the team or drop in your repeat slip with the items you require ticked off. You can also email hrwccg.wgpdispensary@nhs.net.

All requests are verified by our dispensary team and passed to a clinical team member for approval. Items that are not regularly used need to be verified as to be still relevant and safe to prescribe. This process can take up to 48h. Once the prescription is ready it is sent electronically to your chemist of choice (EPS – electronic prescription service) where they will process the order. Most chemists now require 72 hours to process requests due to increased demand, difficulties procuring stock and staffing issues.

Please note, when you are ordering online on occasion if there is a problem with the request (for example being ordered too early or other query) the request may be rejected so please check your inbox after 48h to ensure it has been processed and put through to your chemist.

Once we have sent the referral to your hospital provider, we have no access to their records to say when your appointment will be. Most hospitals currently will send out a verification of the referral to acknowledge receipt and will then contact you in due course with regards to a date. Please contact the hospital directly to chase this up as the relevant secretary/out patient team will have more accurate information than we have. The exception to this is if you have been referred urgently on a cancer assessment pathway ‘two week wait referral’ where you must contact the surgery if you have not received an appointment within the specified two weeks.

Our primary care team is expanding all the time and roles are evolving constantly and will continue to do so. These individuals are highly trained in their field and chosen specifically to be the first contact for certain conditions/queries. These include:

  • Advanced care/nurse practitioners
  • Pharmacist
  • Nursing staff
  • Primary care link workers
  • First contact physio
  • First contact mental health worker
  • Dementia link worker
  • Care co-ordinator
  • Secretarial staff
  • Dispensary
  • GPs – our current GPs comprise 6 partners, 3 extended role salaried GPs, 4 salaried GPs, GP registrars (fully qualified doctors in specialist GP training) and FY2 doctors (fully qualified doctors who are not yet in a specialist training post)

We continue to take patient and staff safety seriously. Some patient contacts are performed wearing PPE – mask & gloves. We ask that individuals do not attend the surgery if they have symptoms that could be in keeping with covid without speaking to a member of clinical staff first. Some patients may be asked to arrive via the entrance at the bank of the building this is to minimise the potential contact with other patients.

Please refer to the government website with regards to covid passes. Any new cohorts for vaccination will be contacted directly when it is time to come forward for their next vaccination/booster but if you have missed any vaccinations to date please contact the surgery so we can get you booked in for your first/second or third vaccines. We are currently doing these at the surgery out with our usual working hours.

There is significant pressure for appointments currently and not enough staff to meet this demand. This is a national issue and has been so for several years even before the pandemic. Although continuity of care is preferable for both patient and doctor our current resources cannot always allow for this. Where possible preferences for follow up care with a preferred clinician will be taken into consideration but this is not always feasible.

In order to improve efficiencies given the current pandemic we have tried to expand the ways we can communicate with everyone. We have a secure messaging service available to us which allows us to send and receive SMS messages which are then stored securely in your medical record. This has allowed us to look at uploaded photos, send updates regarding test results/ alterations to medications etc. It has also enabled us to keep up to date with routine reviews where it has not been possible to get people into the surgery directly – for example checking blood pressure readings at home. Hopefully this will continue to be utilised as an additional means of communication.

You can. We have been doing face to face consultations throughout the entire pandemic. These have been reduced in number to allow for clinical triage/social distancing/previous stay at home orders. We take into account clinical necessity and also patient preference when booking either a face to face or telephone booking. There are many queries than can be safely and easily dealt with on the phone which can be much more convenient for many patients. With our electronic prescribing service you can speak to a clinician and have any relevant medication sent to the pharmacy of your choice and if required any supplementary information such as sick notes, NHS advice sheets sent by messenger to your phone, wherever you happen to be.

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