Health bosses remind Lincolnshire patients that GP surgeries are still open despite pandemic

Health bosses in Lincolnshire are reminding patients that GP surgeries across the county are all still open, and have been right through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This is following some feedback from patients who believe their surgeries are not open.

However, in order to keep both surgery staff and patients safe, surgeries have changed the way patients access services, with the majority dealing with 80-90 per cent of patient queries via telephone and online consultations.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, a Lincolnshire GP and medical director of the Local Medical Committee said he wanted to make it clear that all GP surgeries are open; they are just delivering services differently.

Dr Sharrock said: “The majority of our GP surgeries now have online e-consultation systems in place and we would ask all patients to use these systems as much as possible. For patients who do not have access to the internet, they can call their surgery as normal, but please bear with us as we are extremely busy at this time and calls may take longer than usual to answer.”

He added: “If we think that you need to be seen then we will arrange for an appropriate appointment or perform a video consultation. Please only come to the surgery if we have asked you to, arrive at your appointment time and not before, wear a face covering, and maintain social distancing in the surgery.”

For those concerned that more subtle symptoms may be missed, Dr Majid Akram, GP and Clinical Lead for the South Locality at NHS Lincolnshire CCG explained: “Lincolnshire CCG clinical leads have written to all practices reminding them about the need to accommodate face to face contacts with all patients who need this type of consultation.”

Dr Akram denied that this was likely to be a permanent shift by GPs away from face to face appointments to speed up consultations and fit more appointments in: “Triage first is allowing clinical teams to work more effectively, and this is helping with improvements to access within primary care. Face to face appointments have not stopped and are an ongoing offering in all primary care settings in Lincolnshire.”

Sarah-Jane Mills, chief operating officer at NHS Lincolnshire CCG said GP surgeries have and will continue to adapt to the ever changing circumstances to ensure that patients can access the services and treatment they need.

Ms Mills said: “We want to thank our GP surgeries for their commitment and dedication, and also the people of Lincolnshire for adapting so quickly to the changes that have been introduced.”

Patients are also being reminded to “Talk before they walk” and to make use of NHS111 and NHS111 online in order to access the most appropriate service.

Dr Sharrock continued: “If you have symptoms which may be of Covid-19; a new persistent cough, loss or change in sense of smell or taste, an unexplained fever, you should contact the NHS 111 Covid-19 Clinical Assessment Service by calling 111 or 119 or go to NHS111 online.”

He added: “If you are told that you are likely to have Covid-19 then please self-isolate at home for seven days, and ensure that your household contacts also self-isolate for fourteen days. If your symptoms worsen in this time please contact NHS 111 for further support and advice.”

There have been reports of doctors replying to questions from patients on AskMy GP in varying ways, either by phone or on email, without consistency, meaning patients did not know what to expect and messages could be missed or overlooked.

Dr Akram said: “When reviewing online consultations, clinicians will use the most suitable method to communicate with patients, based on the nature of the query. It is reassuring to learn that clinicians are using email, and phone to reply to patient queries.”

If you have any feedback about access to your GP surgery you can contact HWLincs on 01205 820892 or email [email protected]