Reading GPs switch to different ways of working to cope with coronavirus

Latest developments, as of 20 March 2020
Photo of the coronavirus

People in Reading who want to see their GPs are being offered telephone triage in the first instance, as the coronavirus crisis takes hold.

Surgeries are also using social media to appeal to patients to be understanding of the changes at this time.

Emmer Green GP Dr Andy Ciecierski outlined the approach of local GPs, when he answered a question put by Healthwatch Reading during a discussion on coronavirus at the latest meeting of the Reading Health and Wellbeing Board.

It is to avoid patients’ risk of getting something, but it’s also trying to protect our staff. We have a limited number of doctors and nurses.
— Dr Andy Ciecierski, GP locality lead, north and west Reading, for Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group

How your GP service may change

  • All appointment requests triaged: Patients cannot book appointments online, they must phone in advance to answer questions so the surgery can decide if they need an appointment or signposting to 111 or other services
  • More phone or video appointments:  Doctors or other health care professionals will call patients to discuss their concerns to avoid them coming to the surgery
  • Some surgery visits still okay: Surgeries will tell patients to still visit for necessary procedures such as immunisations, dressing changes, and blood tests
  • Home working for doctors: GPs in Reading have been given laptops to let them log in to patient systems from home and where possible, do video consultations
  • More electronic prescribing: Surgeries will put more people onto the system that sends prescriptions directly to pharmacies to avoid needing to collect paper copies
  • Buddy systems: Surgeries will work together to share staff and premises when needed which may means patients have to go to different locations for certain things

Dr Ciecierski said NHS England had advised GPs to move to alternative ways of working. He said it would be a 'big cultural shift' for some doctors to move to telephone-only appointments, but with the right mindset, he felt a lot of patients' problems could be dealt with this way, because doctors had a lot of information about their patients already on their computer clinical systems.

Meanwhile, Balmore Park Surgery has set up a Facebook group for patients in which it said it had already started to experience staff shortages, and appealed to patients to self-manage minor illnesses, follow government guidance, call 111 or use the 111 online service and not request extra supplies of medication on top of usual prescription amounts.

'The reduced staffing in all departments will likely lead to longer waits on the phone, more potential for cancelled clinics, longer waits for prescription run-around and longer waits for routine problems to be dealt with,' the surgery states. 'A quick review for reassurance will no longer be possible. We would ask people to use online resources to see if they can find the reassurance they need...We will still see patients who sound like they may have a potentially serious condition.'


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