We have all had to learn to live and work differently in the past 6 months and this has been a challenge for all of us, as individuals, as businesses, as employers and employees, as customers and patients and as NHS providers, as we all try to adapt to ever-changing regulations, requirements and guidance.
We thank all our patients for their understanding and support during this time. Although we had to reduce many of our routine services during lockdown, we have continued to provide medical care throughout the pandemic, and are opening up services as soon as we can.
In order to manage clinicians’ time and provide a safe, effective service it has become necessary to centralise all face-to-face appointments at Brunston Surgery, Coleford. Any invasive procedures, such as injections, require a GP to be on the premises. Patients have been able to collect prescriptions from both sites throughout the pandemic.
Contrary to popular belief, our practice workload has not decreased during this time, but has increased substantially as we strive to find new ways to provide general practice services, whilst ensuring the safety of our patients and staff.
We have learned that not all patients need to wait to be seen in the surgery. Many needs can be met safely, quickly and to the satisfaction of patients without seeing a GP so much of our work can be done over the telephone, online and by video consultations, but we have continued to see patients whom we need to, both in the surgery and at home.
Social distancing requirements mean we can only have 3 patients in the surgery waiting room at any one time, which is a big reduction from our pre-covid normal.
We have increased the number of phone lines in the practice, to try to reduce waiting times, but we now have eConsult which is our preferred method of contact. It allows patients to seek medical help at their convenience and allows patients to take their time when putting their needs and concerns across. Following a request via eConsult we will get back to patients by the end of the next working day. This is far speedier than historical waiting times for routine appointments. We will reply using the contact details provided, usually by text or telephone. Using eConsult .
Our receptionists triage the eConsult submissions in the same way they triage telephone calls.
The majority of patients who have used the eConsult process over the last few months are happy with the service and here are some of the feedback comments from our patients.
“Speed of response. Ability (time) to explain things that one might forget during a face to face”.
“eliminates the time I would have to take off work to attend the surgery. The ability to send photos etc is helpful”
“Just brilliant. Was able to explain fully my concerns and condition and as I work full time, I was able to speak to a GP and get my problem sorted”
“This service is excellent. It is a very fast method of obtaining an initial GP consultation. It is much better than attending surgery and waiting to see the GP”. Hopefully, this service will continue after the COVID-19 measures have been relaxed.”
“Very convenient and flexible super first class service, please keep”
We are aware that the questionnaire is quite lengthy and may take some time to complete. We have raised this with the supplier and they are investigating how to make the process easier and quicker for patients whilst maintaining the same level of safety (see Response from eConsult). It is quicker to complete your consultation questionnaire using the NHS App as some details will feed through automatically.
Normally the introduction of a new system or process would take months, but we only had days to implement eConsult, so we are learning as we go along.
We understand not all our patients will have internet access. You can still phone through but you will be required to give more information than you may have in the past (receptionists have to complete a similar questionnaire to the eConsult used by patients). Patient care is prioritised on need, not method of contact, so you will not get a medical response any sooner just because you phone us.
Please help us, to free up telephone lines for our vulnerable patients and those who do not meet the criteria, by using the online method to consult with a GP.
Patients can still telephone the surgery for Nurse, blood tests and flu clinic appointments.
The following patient groups do not need to or will not be allowed to use eConsult:
- Emergency or COVID related problems
- All requests concerning children under 6 months
- Children under 18 years unless the request is sent by a parent
- Patients we see as vulnerable and at risk and patients who will have difficulty understanding or accessing the system
- Other healthcare professionals.
We will continue to re-assess our service and make changes for the better. We welcome feedback (preferably by responding to the survey sent after using eConsult or by using the Feedback form on our website) but please treat our staff with respect as they always try their best to help you.