Dear Patients,

The Family Practice, Western College knows there’s been a lot of discussion in the news this week about GPs providing face-to face-appointments.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice has remained open to patients.   Appointments have been offered using new ways of working and new technology and teams have worked hard to make sure they remained available to speak to, and to offer appointments to anyone who’s needed them.
The Family Practice knows that patients sometimes prefer to see a GP face to face, but there are reasons why it has offered additional online or telephone consultations, and government guidance has played a big part in this.  It’s remained the case that if a clinician needed to see a patient face to face, or felt it was important for their care, those patients are asked to come in to see us.
Offering new ways of working has helped some patients to access appointments who wouldn’t normally be able to due to other commitments, such as their work or caring responsibilities.
The cleaning required between patients during the pandemic means that if all patients were to come into the surgery, the number of appointments would have to be reduced because of the amount of time that cleaning between each patient takes. However, patients who need to be seen face to face will always be seen face to face.
Changing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) between each patient adds additional time to the end of each appointment. The difficulty in obtaining PPE has also meant that staff needed to be more cautious than normal about the way they use scare resources.

The Family Practice understands that some patients are reluctant to come into the surgery as they’re worried.  It is making sure that social distancing is as good as it possibly can be and that it maintains a ‘COVID-secure’ environment. Some of the things it takes into account when considering this are: the number of people in the building, the number of people who pass each other in the corridors, and the toilet facilities that are available.
The staff are just as vulnerable to COVID too, and some may have ethnicity or health issues that make them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.  As caring employers, the practice needs to ensure that the staff are kept safe as well.  It is right to take the necessary precautions to keep both staff and patients safe.
The Family Practice has many elderly and vulnerable patients with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus than most.  It also knows that there are young and healthy people who have been seriously affected by COVID-19, so it isn’t just the elderly or infirm it needs to protect.
Increasing the number of patients in the surgery would mean that it would increase the risk for everyone – particularly if some of those people had symptoms of COVID-19 and were unwell enough to need to be seen. For this reason, it is important to keep a balance of the types of appointments available. 

In a typical week nearly 1000 appointments are available.  Of those appointments last week:
593 were GP telephone appointments
47 patients were seen face to face
316 patients were seen in the treatment room
26 were other patient contacts.

This does not include other work that the clinicians do such as looking at blood results, follow ups, home visits, referrals to other hospitals, medicine reviews, meetings with other organisations regarding patients, care home reviews -  to name just a few.  
There is nothing that the team at the practice would like to see more than a return to ‘normal’ life and the easy face-to-face care it has always provided, but at the moment offering fewer face-to-face appointments keeps patients safe and provides the maximum number of appointments it can.
The team at The Family Practice is available to talk to, and always want to hear from, patients who need them. While they understand and share patients’ frustrations with the current situation, they hope you’ll continue to help and support them, as you’ve always supported the NHS, so that they can go on providing you with care and support in the coming weeks and months.

Thank you for being there for us.

The Family Practice

17th September 2020

Published: Sep 22, 2020