Letter to Patients

26th August 2021

Dear patient,

We are writing to update you about some of the challenges the practice is facing and changes that we have introduced to combat them.

Firstly, we’d like to thank you for your patience and cooperation over the extremely difficult last 18 months. We understand that there have been many changes to the way health care has been delivered and this may have been unsettling and difficult to navigate at times.

General practice is facing unprecedented demand at the moment. This is a national issue. Current demand is at a level we would normally see in the middle of a bad winter, not the August holidays. As much as we would like to offer every patient the appointment of their choice and process all patient requests on the same day, this is simply not possible.

In many ways our ‘doctor first’ approach has helped us as we were already set up in the model the rest of the country has now adopted, and askmyGP is an invaluable tool in helping you access us and us manage your requests. ‘Doctor first’ means that rather than patients being able to book appointments directly, requests are looked at by a clinician first so we can arrange the most appropriate course of action. This will mean you having to provide information as to the nature of your request. We would encourage you to use askmyGP where you can, write as much as you want and add pictures. Please leave the phone lines clear for the elderly and vulnerable who have no internet access.

Before the pandemic we were seeing around 45% of requests in surgery. Due to concerns about spreading covid and maintaining social distancing this number has dropped significantly – at its lowest it was less than 10%.

Going forwards, with the relaxation of the rules, we are trying to provide more face-to-face appointments however these will continue to be offered only when the doctor feels it is absolutely necessary for you to attend in person. Many problems can be safely dealt with by telephone & using technology such as photos and video consultations. Please understand we are not in any way trying to ‘fob’ people off or avoid dealing with you.

At this present time, we have been advised to continue to ask patients to maintain social distancing within the practice building and we would also ask you to continue to wear a face covering if you are able to do so. This is for the protection of staff and particularly for vulnerable patients who are continuing to try to shield as far as possible.

As we have said, demand is at an unprecedented level and this, combined with staff absences due to sickness and isolation, means we are currently unable to deal with everything coming to us every day. For this reason, we have had to limit access by phone (to 8.30-9.30) and askmyGP (to 6-9.30) We understand how frustrating this is for everyone, including us as it goes against the open access ethos we were attempting, and previously succeeding, to provide. We are doing our absolute best, please work with us on this.

In addition to caring for our patients, we must also care for our staff. The nature of our work has become nonstop and emotionally very challenging. To give everyone a proper break for lunch, from September we will commence closing the practice every day 12.30 – 1.30. On Wednesday we will continue to close 12.30 – 2.00 to allow time for staff meetings and training. If we cannot protect our staff from abuse and given them regular breaks and the necessary training, we are likely to lose even more of them and this could possibly mean shortening opening hours and reducing access even further, so we really do need your understanding and help with this.

We are finding that many requests every day are ones that could have been dealt with elsewhere:

  • The local pharmacies run a minor ailments scheme where you can receive treatment for many of the common minor ailments which is free to you if you don’t pay for prescriptions
  • Many websites offer self-help advice for other conditions – these are ones we would recommend
  • If you are ordering medication, please use the NHS app or Patient Access (speak to reception to set up or if you’ve forgotten your login) and order with enough time to spare for us to process it:
  • If you want to know the result of something organised by the hospital, please ring them not us
  • Regarding Covid: Please don’t ask us for exemptions for face coverings, letters to employers or proof of vaccination – we are unable to provide these.

Finally, a plea from us on behalf of all our staff to treat them with respect. We have been working tirelessly under relentless pressure and are doing our utmost to provide the best service we can. We will not tolerate abuse of staff and will take measures to remove people and/or involve the police if it occurs. If you have a complaint about any aspect of our service, please put it in writing to the Practice Manager.

Yours faithfully

Drs Hobbs, Jones, Kumar, Millington, Nagel & Shirt

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