Beccles Medical Centre would like to respond to the recent correspondence from NHS England in regarding to the changes in its guidance to practices regarding access.
Throughout the pandemic BMC has followed the necessary changes and guidelines in order to respond to the increased health risk of Covid-19, and adapted its screening to ensure that staff and patients are protected and supported. Many of our staff have required shielding based on risk assessments, and it has always been our aim that no member of staff or patient in the practice has less than the appropriate support they deserved.
Both the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) recently acknowledged the increasing pressures on general practice. Demand for services are now far higher than pre-covid and GP services are in the front line supporting and being the gateway to other NHS services. BMC has responded to the demand to the best of its ability, run a very successful vaccination programme in conjunction with other local surgeries and continued to provide medical services and support patients who haven’t been able to access postponed or cancelled hospital services. (75% of all Covid vaccination services have been provided by UK general practice staff.)
Unfortunately our staff have seen increased levels of verbal abuse, demands and complaints, despite the communication to the public that GP services are currently overwhelmed. (Please see attached graph representing the increased demand in the last 14 months).
There may be a longer wait for your appointment, but by default this will be because our triage system has identified patients who have a higher health need and this does not mean that your health issue is any less important to us. Please help us by accessing pharmacy and self-care support, as we have noticed a significant rise in over the counter requests that could be managed by your local pharmacist.
As the phased easing of Covid restrictions commence we would like to ensure that all patients are fully aware of our commitment to returning to ‘normality’ as quickly and safely as we are able. We are constantly re-evaluating how best to support the community, and as a team we are looking at the way we will encourage access, engagement and respond to demand in an effective way that benefits all.
The NHS guidance raises four main point of which we would like to address;
➢ GP practices must all ensure they are offering face to face appointments.
We have never stopped offering face to face appointments. We have commenced a very successful telephone and digital triage system where patients are assessed initially. If, from this clinically experienced assessment it is identified that a patient will require a face to face appointment, then one will be made at this stage. This helps us to see more patients in an appropriate timeline. This system is NOT to deny anyone the right to health care and advice, but is in place to ensure that everyone DOES have access to health care and advice in the most equitable way, especially when demand for GP services are at an all-time high.
➢ Practices should respect preferences for face to face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary.
BMC will always consider the opinion of our patients in terms of preference, however patients must understand that they also have a role to play in supporting services back to normality and safely.
➢ All practice receptions should be open to patients.
Now that services are starting to open, BMC are considering how best to manage the re-opening of the practice reception in the safest and most efficient way. It is not likely that it will return to the same as pre-covid for the immediate future, however the team is working ways of engaging with our patients at the front desk in a safe environment.
➢ Patients should be treated consistently regardless of mode of access.
All of our patients – regardless of video consult, digital access, telephone or face to face are triaged in the same way. Our website enables us to do this and we would always encourage our patients to use this system as leaves the telephone lines free for urgent cases.
For further clarification of our position – please note a supporting statement from Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the General Practitioner Committee of the BMA, which can be found here https://bma-mail.org.uk/…/JVX-7DEEO…/cr.aspx
BMC are keen to return services to some sort of normality but only when we deem it safe for patients and staff. Please remember this pandemic is far from over and we must maintain our vigilance .