Local GPs across Bradford district and Craven are asking for the support of local people as the NHS continues to work through the second wave of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Doctors across the area are reminding local people that they are still here to help, but that how they do this has changed to ensure that both patients and staff can stay safe. With this in mind, clinicians are asking those who CAN go online to get help or book an appointment to please DO in order to free up phone lines for those who cannot access online services.
Practices across Bradford district and Craven provided over 330,000 appointments during September 2020, an increase of over 52 per cent (around 113,000 consultations) when compared to the height of the pandemic back in May this year.
This included an increased number of telephone appointments (from 78,000 to over 120,000) alongside over 195,000 face-to-face consultations.
As pressures continue to rise in the health and care system, practices are continuing to respond and adapt, but are asking for help and understanding from local people about how they access services.
Dr James Thomas, a Skipton GP and clinical chair at NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Just like the rest of the NHS and wider public services, the coronavirus has forced us to operate differently in order to keep our patients and staff safe.
“This has meant offering more appointments over the telephone and online, reducing the number of staff who work from practice buildings and looking at innovative ways to do the right thing for local people. Just as with any other person in society, practice staff are at risk from the virus too and this has meant we’ve had to adapt when staff have had to isolate – we’re seeing a bigger impact from this during the second wave and as the national and local test and trace services swing into action.”
In partnership with NHS Bradford District and Craven CCG, practices have set-up special hubs for people to receive face-to-face treatment if they have coronavirus symptoms, known as ‘red hubs’.
James explains: “The red hubs mean we can still see people who may have the virus face-to-face and in a safe space, separately from those who need help and who do not have symptoms. This helps us to keep both our patients and staff safe.”
But the increase in COVID-19 cases has impacted on staff numbers at practices who often have the majority of their teams working from different locations in order to keep the surgery open and maintain social distancing whilst on the premises.
This has led to misunderstandings about practices not being ‘open’ to care for local people that Dr Thomas explains are untrue: “Just because the front door is not open, it does not mean we are not still here to help you. But we need everyone to work with us so we can do this as safely as possible.
“During the pandemic, waits on the telephone lines can be longer and sadly, frustration and misunderstanding of the new ways we have to operate to keep people safe have led to people getting quite upset with our reception teams. We understand this is an anxious time for everyone, but our teams are doing the best they can to help and we’d appreciate everyone’s support while we do this.”
Coronavirus will continue to impact all our lives for some time to come, so local doctors are asking people who CAN use online services to please DO use them where they can, to reduce the waiting times on telephone lines.
James added: “If you CAN go online, please DO go online. You can book your flu jab online if you’ve been invited to book an appointment, you can complete a quick online form to share details of your health concern and then a member of the practice team will call you back, usually within 24 hours and you can also request your repeat prescriptions online.
“There’s also free advice available 24 hours-a-day on both the nhs.uk and 111.nhs.uk websites and local pharmacists are highly trained individuals who can help with a wide variety of common health issues.
“Face-to-face appointments are still available, but we will speak to you first to understand what help you need and will only invite you into the practice where a GP feels this is necessary. This is to keep you, your loved ones, our local communities and our staff safe while we help you.
“We ask you to please not come into the practice in-person unless we have asked you to and if you are asked to come in, please make sure you wear a face mask, wash your hands and follow the guidance on social distancing whilst in the waiting room.
“If you have symptoms of coronavirus; a persistent cough, a high temperature and/or a change in your sense of taste and/or smell, please isolate at home immediately and visit nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 to book a test and for help and advice. We do not provide coronavirus tests at GP practices. You should isolate for ten days from the day you developed symptoms and the rest of your household should isolate for 14 days.
“We appreciate this is a difficult time for everyone, but we’re still here to help. Please stand with us by following local guidance, if you CAN go online to free-up phone lines for those who can’t, please DO go online.
“If you’re invited to come in for a flu jab, please take up the offer. If you spot something that you’re worried about, let us know so we can get you the help you need. Go online if you can, call if you can’t, but most of all, please bear with us while we do all we can to keep local people safe and well during the pandemic.”
Local health and care services are #StillHereToHelp
Local health, care, voluntary and local authority services are still here to help during the coronavirus pandemic. Services across Bradford district and Craven are working together to remind local people to still get in touch if they need help before their situation worsens as part of the #StillHereToHelp campaign.
How people access services may have changed, for example, appointments with GP practices may take place over the phone or online. If you need a GP appointment, please go online to your practice’s website or call your local practice.
Please do not attend your practice in person unless asked to do so.