(News source: published on behalf of Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership)
A Woking GP has spoken of the mammoth team effort from ‘selfless’ frontline staff to reorganise the way the borough’s practices work to care for people during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Receptionists, administrators, nurses and doctors across all 12 Woking surgeries came together to initiate a new process for treating patients throughout the pandemic.
Anyone needing to contact their practice with a healthcare problem must telephone or use the surgery’s website first. Many are now having their needs met through a telephone or video consultation with a GP or nurse without the need for a face-to-face appointment.
For those who still need to be seen, practices have created different clinics to separate patients at risk or with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 and those who are healthy and need routine care.
Some clinics are dedicated to safely treating those who need a face-to-face appointment but who either have COVID-19 symptoms or live with someone who does. While patients are seen quickly in these clinics the end-to-end process for staff can be much longer as they do everything possible to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This includes preparing patients for consultations before they enter the building, doctors switching personal protective equipment between consultations and cleaning taking place between each patient as well as a deep clean of the site every evening.
Separate clinics continue to see patients for routine medical needs such as baby health checks and immunisations, with all necessary precautions in place to keep patients and staff as safe as possible. The new process has been introduced with the support of teams working behind the scenes at NHS Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group.
Dr Caroline Baker, GP at Southview Medical Centre which has been leading the changes to local practices, said: “This has been an exceptional team effort to keep our patients and staff safe while ensuring people get the care they need. Almost overnight we have changed the way we’ve been working in general practice for over 50 years.
“Our practice manager and reception team have been my heroes in all of this. People are being really selfless and working long and extremely demanding days that combine their busy day jobs with new processes and getting involved in the clean-up effort each day.”
Effective use of more telephone and video consultations means some of the changes in local surgeries are expected to last long after the outbreak is under control.
“It can be difficult to make changes to the way we work in normal times but in this situation we have had to adapt. As a result there has been a lot of learning, sharing expertise and support from our patients who understand the pressure we are under and are working with us as we make changes. GPs are learning more about digital triage and patients have been seeing the benefits of not always having to visit the surgery to get the care they need.
“It’s these positive aspects that I hope can last and give us a more efficient way of working when we’re out of the pandemic,” added Dr Baker.
If you need medical help and it’s not a life threatening emergency, remember to call your GP practice, visit www.111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111 first.