We are aware of the very high demand for appointments at Drayton Medical Practice at present, and the ensuing difficulties for patients getting through to us on the telephone.
Such is in keeping with most, if not all, GP surgeries in England – despite NHS digital data showing that GP practices in England delivered almost 5 million more appointments in March 21 than in February 21 (estimated 28.4 million compared to 23.5 million).
We continue to adhere to the NHS England directive that requires us to remotely triage all patients who request an appointment.
This means that, even as other areas of society are opening up with the relaxation of covid restrictions, our internal front reception remains physically closed, while our receptionists try to respond to the many thousands of phone calls we receive per week.
We are busier than ever – in February 2021 we were receiving up to 1500 incoming calls/day, which rose to 2000/day in April 2021.
Access to appointments is compounded by the fact that our doctors and nurses are being deployed to deliver covid vaccinations to our patients – at the surgery, on home visits to the housebound, and by staffing the vaccination centres – thus reducing their availability for other primary care appointments.
There is also the timely cost of PPE and cleansing clinical rooms between patients, and of implementing the changing local protocols in managing the response to the covid pandemic.
We hope that recent additions to our team from the PCN – namely a social prescriber, a pharmacist and a first contact physio will allow some patients’ symptoms to be dealt with in a more streamlined fashion, rather than waiting for a more traditional appointment with a GP.
Along with other GP practices, we encourage patients to use other resources to manage their symptoms where appropriate eg the Health A-Z or the ‘care and support’ sections – both at www.nhs.uk , or the various self care/self help links on e-consult that can signpost patients to more appropriate services. This allows faster access to care advice rather than waiting for a GP.
There is so much health information available on line and we credit Ivy Grove Surgery for highlighting such matters recently.
Unlike hospitals, general practice is the only NHS service that cannot restrict or limit its workload and hand it over to another service – even if staff are off sick (several of our GPs have had covid). Our doctors continue to work 10-11 hour days – carrying out consultations via telephone, video, using photographs, and conducting some booked face-to-face appointments (after initial remote triage assessment) whilst wearing PPE and with strict safety protocols in place.
We continue to strive to provide high quality primary care to the residents of Market Drayton, but are aware that the current access challenges go far beyond DMP and our ability to solve them.
In response to the latest press release on patient access we await official specific guidance on any changes that should be implemented.
Update as of 15:30h
Further to communication with our Local Medical Committee please see our updated statement.
As a practice we are aware of the communication from NHSE and media this morning regarding the opening up of GP receptions and appointments as of Monday 17th May. As a practice we are reviewing how we can maximise patient access, whilst maintaining safety for patients and staff safely as guidance changes.
At Drayton Medical Practice we have continued to work and support patients throughout the whole of the pandemic and have responded to more calls from patients throughout the whole of the pandemic and responding to unprecedented levels of demand. In the period March and April 2021 alone we have dealt with more calls than in any other period on record, and as a practice will continue to meet the needs of our patients as best we can, whilst continuing to support the COVID Vaccination program.
In the short term we will continue to limit access to the premises, and offer a triage first service in order to ensure patients are treated in the most appropriate way and will continue to offer remote consultations and appropriate face to face appointments until a safety review is completed.
We can confirm that face to face appointments HAVE continued throughout the whole of the pandemic, however we reinforce that this is following a triage first service in order to maintain the best interests of both patients and staff.