PATIENTS in County Durham are being reminded to ‘talk before you walk’ to ensure they receive the most appropriate healthcare treatment.
GP practices are ‘open for business’ but doctors are urging patients to contact their local practice by phone, or online, for help and advice on access to services if they feel unwell.
Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer, NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “GP practices have remained open during the Covid-19 pandemic but have had to adapt to very different ways of working.
“Despite the relaxation of lockdown the pandemic is not over so GP practices may carry on in this way for many months to come.
“Many of our services have now fully resumed, with a few exceptions – some minor surgery, joint injections, breathing tests and private medicals are still not available, but we strongly urge patients to contact their GP if they are unwell, for monitoring tests for existing conditions and for routine vaccinations.”
All surgeries continue to run a “total triage” model or “talk before you walk”, enabling patients to be directed to the most appropriate service including telephone, e-mail or video consultations, referrals to external services or if clinically appropriate a face-to-face appointment.
Patients can also get GP advice by completing an e-Consult form – The online consultation service, accessed via the NHS app or GP practice website, offers information on health conditions, advice on self-care and local pharmacy services and will advise by text, phone or e-mail, if a GP video, phone or face-to-face consultation is required.
Health professionals continue to use personal protective equipment (PPE) within practices, with rooms thoroughly cleaned between patients to minimise the risk of infection spreading. Anyone asked to attend a face-to-face appointment will be asked to wear a face covering to help protect other patients and staff.
“We are aware that a number of patients, including those without access to online or digital phones or people with communication difficulties, may feel daunted by these new ways of working, said Dr Findlay.
“But we are trying our best to enable access for everyone, using telephone calls if digital access is an issue and providing translation services, including sign language, for video and telephone consultations.
“But it remains vital that people contact their GP surgery with any worrying symptoms and not be put off because of the pandemic as the earlier a problem is identified the more likely it can be treated.”
Repeat prescriptions can still be requested online, or by using the NHS App and patients without internet access should contact their surgery, who will advise them how to order medication.
GPs are also urging people to continue to help ease pressures on the NHS in the coming months by ensuring those at risk get a flu jab.
“With winter influenza on the horizon there has never been a more important time to have a flu jab,” added Dr Findlay
“We are currently looking at ways to deliver the vaccine this year, with the need to maintain social distancing, but we would urge people, especially those in high risk groups, to ensure that they get their jab as soon as they become available.
“Everyone has used the NHS sensibly over the last four months and that really has enabled us to save lives – we know that some people have had a significant wait for routine treatment and we are here to support them, but the last thing we need is a second wave with a repeat of lockdown and more pressures being put on health services.
“The pandemic is not over and we would ask people to continue to be sensible, continue social distancing, wear face coverings where appropriate and wash their hands – the NHS really needs your continued support.”