Our wonderful health and care services have continued to work tirelessly to provide high quality care through the most challenging of times.
Some services have had to be paused or be delivered in a different way, but local services have remained there for our patients when they need them most. Here in the North West we have been particularly badly affected.
We have all had to learn new skills and behave in different ways. Sometimes we are having to work out of our comfort zone, and this can be physically and emotionally exhausting for all.
Our GP Practices, like many health and care services, are under increased pressure; we are in a what is called the ‘recovery’ phase, where things that were put on hold are now coming back on line. Doing this in the midst of a ‘second wave’ is really challenging. It is likely that having recommenced some services, we are going to have to step them down again in response to the pandemic. This is both frustrating and upsetting.
As we head towards winter, we are also noticing that demand for GP services has increased. In March many people chose to keep their distance unless they really needed support, but there has been a change; from a demand perspective, things are getting back to how they were before the pandemic started, this is unsustainable. We are not working in normal times.
Managing this demand whilst in the midst of a pandemic means our Practices are continually having to adapt to this new world. The priority has to be to keep our staff and patients safe whilst ensuring that when a patient needs the support of their Practice, we are there for them.
Many people will have had to self-isolate at home, perhaps they or a family member have had coronavirus symptoms or have been confirmed positive. Our General Practice staff are feeling the impact of this too. With many staff needing to self-isolate, this has had a knock-on effect on capacity. It is humbling to see how teams are working hard to keep services running for our patients, despite these challenges.
During these times it might be a little harder to get in contact with the Practice, but everyone is working really hard to answer each and every contact as quickly as they can. Thanks to everyone for your support, understanding and patience.
We mustn’t forget that the pandemic has brought us opportunities to work differently. To reduce footfall in our Practices and keep staff and patients safe, we are providing the same quality care in new and innovative ways.
For now, the main options offered to patients who need an appointment with a GP or Nurse is by video call or by telephone. We know that most patient enquiries can be safely dealt with in this way. This is a real but necessary shift in the way we deliver care, change can be difficult, but many patients are feeling the benefits and welcome the opportunity to receive the same quality care at home; it’s not a lesser service, it’s a safer service. Every time we provide a video consultation, together, we are reducing the risk of spreading this virus which is so easily passed from person to person. If we feel a patient needs a face to face appointment, this will be arranged safely.
Many enquiries are now being dealt with quickly and without an actual appointment, via secure message made possible through online services like ‘Ask My GP’. This is making it easier for patients to get in touch with their Practice.
Our patients have been very understanding of this new and necessary way of working. We are in this together and need to continue to support each other as we are not yet over this crisis.
On a final but equally important note, I wanted to say, we can’t forget that health and care services don’t work in isolation, they rely heavily on many other parts of the ‘Bury System’. In times like this we see the best of people in the way they respond and work together, breaking down organisational boundaries and simply wanting to get the job done and the best outcomes for local people, together.
There are so many examples and I don’t want to miss any out, but wanted to share one example; I heard recently about a blocked drain affecting a care home which meant the home could not take in new residents from the hospital, releasing critically needed beds for poorly patients. Now more than ever we are relying on our wonderful care homes to keep our most vulnerable residents safe. The Bury Council team swung into action and were on site to sort the issue within hours, clearing the drain quickly and as a result helping to keep the care home up and running, and accepting patients from the hospital.
There is so much great work happening in Bury, so many examples of people pulling on all of their resources and energies and working together, our amazing volunteers and our Community Hubs are supporting people, offering befriending services and volunteering to help with tasks like shopping, gardening and walking the dog when vulnerable people need a helping hand and have no one else to support them. General Practice staff supporting Community Nurses, and Consultants supporting General Practice. The pandemic has and continues to be hard on everyone, but one thing it has shone a light on is our true team Bury spirit. At times like this you see the best in people.
It is a really difficult time, and we can’t lose sight of that, but there is also much to be proud of. People across all services, whether in the Council, the CCG and our One Commissioning Organisation, Primary Care services, community, hospital and mental services and our impressive voluntary sector, everyone is pulling together.
By supporting each other, by being kind, sensitive and tolerant to one another, and by looking after each other. We will get through this difficult time, together.
Dr. Jeffrey Schryer, local GP and CCG Chair