Patients who have contacted their GP practice or booked an appointment over the past weeks and months may have noticed the team is working very differently.

Practices are working hard to provide care safely while reducing the transmission of coronavirus and, thanks to new technology, most patient enquiries can now be dealt with without having to come in to the practice.

To reduce footfall in practices and keep everyone safe, the majority of appointments are currently taking place over the telephone or by video call. This is the same quality care but from a safe distance. Many patients have embraced this new and convenient approach to delivering care while keeping them safe during what continues to be a difficult time for everyone.

In addition to virtual consultations, more patients are being helped through secure messaging via an online service called Ask My GP.

Practice teams continue to work hard to respond to every patient contact, often when they are running with a smaller team due to staff members being poorly or self-isolating themselves.

For some appointments and health concerns, a face-to-face appointment will be the only option and, where the patient’s doctor or nurse feels it is necessary, this will be arranged.

With winter just around the corner, flu vaccinations ongoing and the much anticipated coronavirus vaccination expected soon, it’s set to continue to be an incredibly busy time for General Practices, who continue to prioritise their work to care for the most vulnerable patients who need to be seen.

Dr Jeffrey Schryer, local GP and chair of NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Practices continue to prioritise and flex the way they work during this ongoing crisis. Our patients have been very understanding and supportive as we work through what continues to be an incredibly challenging time.

“Our priority has to be to keep our patients and our teams safe and, during busier periods, for example when the coronavirus vaccine becomes available and when our practices have team members poorly or self-isolating at home, we must continue to look at what we can do differently to provide care in the safest way to the people that need us most at that point. Each practice will be working slightly differently at different points in time, the priority always being to provide care to patients that need them most.

“Our priority is to care for vulnerable patients that need support now. For patients who have an annual or regular review for a long-term condition where they are generally very stable, asking them to visit the practice for a review could pose a greater risk to them, and where that is the case we suggest their review is deferred for a short time.”

During this ongoing crisis patients are asked to support their practice by:

* Using GP online services (in most practices in Bury this is called Ask My GP) as a quick and easy way to get in touch with the team through a secure message and to request an appointment.

* Sign up to Patient Services Online and use electronic prescribing to order repeat prescriptions. The practice sends a prescription electronically to the patient’s chosen pharmacy, and many pharmacies can send a text to the patient when it’s ready to collect.

* Considering all health and care options to get the most appropriate advice or care in the quickest time:

The NHS website: NHS.UK is your complete guide to conditions, symptoms and treatments, including what to do and when to get help.NHS 111: Online 111.nhs.uk or call (dial) 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Community pharmacies can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains. They are often open for longer hours and at the weekend and you don’t need an appointment.

GP evening and weekend appointments are also available via the extended hours service, available from three locations across Bury in the evening and at the weekend. Check availability with the practice.

Community support: If you have a non-clinical issue and you aren’t sure who to contact, you might want some advice or are looking for support from a volunteer, our local Community Hub Hotline might be able to help, call 0161 253 5353 available Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm. And don’t forget the Bury Directory for information about services, activities and events right across Bury.

ENDS

DATE: 24th November 2020