Access to Primary Care services during COVID-19
Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Britain, the face of primary care has radically changed.
Yet throughout the last few months, GP practices have been working hard to support their patients and keep them safe.
With many people reluctant to venture to their doctor out of fear of catching the coronavirus, doctors are encouraging people to get in touch with them promptly rather than letting medical problems get worse.
“We continue to care for all our patients. In fact we never stopped, all that has hopefully happened is some of that wonderful bedside or deskside manner has simply become the new webside manner,” said one GP in Berkshire.
“We want our patients to know that we are here, that our services are safe to use and that it is extremely important that they get in touch promptly if they have concerns around their health.
“If we can identify and deal with something early it can mean much less worry and hassle for the patient in the long term.”
To protect patients and staff alike, and to tackle the spread of the virus, GPs, Practice Nurses and other primary care clinicians have massively increased their use of technology - online, phone and video consultations - to 'see' patients while complying with the necessary social distancing restrictions which remain in place.
As such, all initial contact between patients and GP practices is either currently online or on the phone, with people invited to face-to-face appointments only if deemed absolutely necessary by a clinician.
If you or a loved one need an appointment with a clinician, or are in need of some medical advice, you should continue to either call your GP practice or visit its website, where you will be able to find out more information. Current services may differ from practice to practice so you are advised to check with your practice directly.
Most GP practices also offer patients the opportunity to register for online services and apps that allow them to:-
- Order repeat prescriptions
- See parts of your health record, including test results
- Book, check or cancel appointments
In addition, NHS 111 continues to be just a phone call or a few clicksaway for help, advice or referral for urgent medical problems when you’re not sure what to do.
To get help from NHS 111 you can either go to 111.nhs.uk (for people aged 5 and over only), or call 111. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you think you may have symptoms of coronavirus, you can now get a free NHS test. If you need medical advice about your symptoms then contact NHS 111 online - 111.nhs.uk/covid-19.
Tests are at either drive-through or walk-through test sites (booking in advance may apply), or by using a home kit that is sent to you on request. Find out more about the different options and how to access them here.
You can also contact your GP practice (do not visit) who’ll advise you on the best course of action which maybe to visit a locally established 'hot site' - where people suspected of having coronavirus can still go for treatment while reducing the risk of infection to others.
Whichever service you access in primary care, the NHS would like to reassure you that it is working hard to continue to provide you with access to services when needed in a safe and timely manner. Although the way in which you may access services may have temporarily changed due to the threat of coronavirus, GP services, NHS 111 and your local pharmacists are only a call or click away to assist you. It’s important that you do not delay or put off seeking medical support.
Over the coming days, we will bring you personal stories from our clinicians about how they have been working hard to support their patients and keep them safe.