Northgate Medical Practice Statement
The current period since the onset of the COVID pandemic has been the most challenging that we have faced as a GP Practice.
This has not just been at Northgate, but at every GP Practice throughout the country. It has also been the most challenging period that our country has faced for many decades. These challenges we will detail below.
We, as a practice, have continued seeing patients face to face on a clinical need basis throughout the whole pandemic. Yes - accessing services has been in a different way, but if someone has needed to be seen, then they have been. We have introduced many changes in the practice including protective screens, measures to prevent/reduce congestion, identifying areas where the most vulnerable can wait and adopting measures to avoid lengthy waits within the Practice.
We also significantly reduced our facilities at Blean as a temporary measure. These changes were brought in under national Government guidelines or in anticipation of guidelines while they were being formulated. They have been put in place to protect our staff to ensure a continuity of service delivery to our patients. Without our staff we are unable to provide a service. Several GP surgeries have had to close temporarily during this pandemic period. These measures have also been put in place to protect our patients from the risk of exposure to covid. We too have had staff needing to self-isolate, to shield and to work from home. Despite these issues, we have always strived to deliver the best care that we can.
Our GPs, nurses, Pharmacists, paramedics, nurse practitioners, nurses, physios, health care assistants, managers, administrators, receptionists, cleaning and facilities staff and all of the extended team members have maintained services throughout the last 15 months and this is not going to change. The kind of appointment, contact or assessment may have changed, but a service has been maintained.
Our workload has increased significantly since this time last year, not taking into account the additional burden of delivering the National Covid Vaccination Programme which, by the end of April 21, in conjunction with our North Canterbury Primary Care Network of practices, administered over 20, 000 vaccines since January 8th, 2020.
Working collaboratively with our neighbouring Canterbury colleagues, we’ve identified those patients at greatest risk from complications from COVID who if they have then become infected, we have been able to provide an enhanced monitoring service.
National Covid Vaccination Programme
We volunteered to deliver the vaccination programme as we believe that it is our duty to protect our local population and this has of course had a huge impact on our workload. There is no doubt that without the army of volunteers coming forward to assist us, the programme would not have been so successful locally. These include volunteer vaccinators, observers, floor walkers, St John’s Ambulance staff, Canterbury City Council and their Car Park teams, local businesses such as Robinsons Foundry, What’s Up Cupcake and members of the city Mosque and we must not forget the assistance of the three military teams drafted in to assist us during our busiest clinics.
We thank you all!
The most vulnerable groups have now been vaccinated but a large number of people from less vulnerable groups still remain to be done and we are now entering into Phase 2 of the vaccination Programme.
We would also like to thank those patients who have supported the Practice and our local community over this time. This has ranged from handwritten letters to flowers and refreshments. We will get things wrong on occasions, and are happy to look at anything we could do better, but we never set out to annoy or upset anyone.
We are tired, we have been through the same things that you have in this pandemic whilst working harder than ever before and a patient shouting or swearing can often be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
We ask that you be kind to anyone you come in to contact with at the surgery - we are trying our best to make sure every patient gets what they need and the many, many lovely patients we speak to make the job very worthwhile. Please understand that every member of the practice team has gone above and beyond their job, sometimes at a cost to themselves (and sometimes their family) to ensure that the patients get the best possible care that we can deliver.
In order for you to fully understand the demand we are currently experiencing, NHS England guidance suggests that we should be offering 72 appointments per 1000 patients per week, that’s almost 1500 GP/Nurse appointments. We are currently offering around 1900 GP/Nurse appointments per week, and still there is pressure on appointment access. We are trying to address some of these pressures by bringing in extra clinical assistance.
We are currently experiencing the highest call volume we have ever received with an increase of over double our normal level for the month past. This inevitably has caused long waits on the phone. We are handling the calls as quick as we are able, so we apologise if you have a long wait.
We do not have any control over hospital appointments or operations so please do not take your frustration out on us if you can't get what you need elsewhere in the system- we truly understand your frustrations as we have to try to navigate the system on a daily basis, often with the same outcomes as you. The Local Outpatients contact number is 01227 868686
Our front reception team have had unique challenges. From sitting behind perspex screens to communicating with patients via intercom, all to maintain a COVID safe environment. Guidance from NHSE at present is to maintain our current infection control procedures, however, as the pandemic pressures ease, we will look to have open doors and to welcome patients as necessary, but do be prepared not to be invited into the building to wait if occupation capacity has been reached, as we still have to maintain safe social distancing.
We appreciate the frustrations that this causes and the bottleneck of waiting people that this can cause. This frustration is shared by our reception team and we simply ask for your patience.
During this time we have also adopted new technology for consulting including E-consult. This is part of the Government’s drive for digitalisation of the NHS and also part of the GP contract.
It has led to a surge in requests for information and advice on a whole range on minor illnesses which previously would have been managed in other ways such as self-help, local pharmacies and support groups. We would encourage those with minor illness first to look at the minor illness pages on our website. These contain a wealth of information at www.northgatemedicalpractice.com
The E consult platform has led to an unprecedented and uncontrolled rising surge of requests at times when the practice is closed, creating an unrealistic expectation of a speedy response to queries. With the agreement of the CCG, we have therefore only allowed E-consult’s to be open on weekdays only and during core hours 8.00 am and 6.30 pm. E consult is a triage tool. We would encourage those who have an urgent clinical need to be assessed on the same day, not to use the E-consult platform. Instead, please ring the surgery or 999 if in an absolute emergency.
Measures to improve access for vulnerable patients
During this time, we have also been trying to enhance the care to our Care Home residents. This input has required considerable GP commitment and we have now employed additional staff to enhance this care. For those patients at home who are particularly vulnerable we have enabled them to have rapid telephone access to the Practice so that they do not suffer undue distress.
Management of chronic disease
We have continued to care for and monitor our patients with chronic health conditions throughout the pandemic. Much of this monitoring has been performed remotely to minimise risks of exposure to COVID within these more vulnerable groups.
Some within these groups now wish to be seen face to face. Unless there is a pressing clinical need at present, we would encourage those within these groups to wait until invited to come to avoid adding to the current surge in demand.
In closing, we know there are very many satisfied patients and a fewer number of those who are dissatisfied with the service we offer currently. Please bear with us as we strive to improve the quality given the unprecedented pressures. We are very happy to hear any sensible suggestions on how this might be achieved.
Thank you for supporting us through these difficult times. Thank you for your continuing patience and tolerance. Help us to help you as we adjust to a new way of delivering high quality GP services.
Published: Jun 1, 2021