Statement from the Partners
A statement from the Partners of Poplar Grove Practice, May 2021
With the easing of Coronavirus restrictions, GP practices nationwide are currently dealing with unprecedented demand, with an increase of 20% compared to pre-Covid times. In March 2021 alone, GPs consulted with more patients than before records began. Poplar Grove is no exception. We are currently receiving around 2000 individual requests from patients for GPs each week, and are working hard to rapidly adapt our systems so we can care for you, our patients, in the best way possible. We recognise that we haven't got all of it right yet, but please be assured that we care deeply about our community, and that our patients are at heart of everything we do. Please take the time to read the following statement in response to feedback we have received, so that together we can manage this demand safely and efficiency, and be there for you when you most need us.
Where we are now
No appointment system is perfect, but we have been working hard to find the best system to meet our community’s needs. Before the Pandemic, we had a traditional appointment system where almost everybody saw a GP face to face. Unfortunately ever increasing demand was making this system unsustainable, with long waits for patients and very little filter for GPs, meaning that we were spending precious appointments seeing the most minor ailments. At the start of the Pandemic we were unable to see many people in person and so necessarily switched to telephone triage, where GPs rang everyone added to their list that day. The disadvantage of this was that it only allowed us to deal with a limited number of patients on the day, and once full that day we asked you to call back. This meant that some people were simply unable to get through to us, and we were aware of an unmet need in our population. We hoped that the move to eConsult in February would help to address this.
eConsult allows you to submit your problems to us so that we can prioritise this for more urgent care or routine care. In addition, by using this system our phone lines should be less busy and allow people who cannot use eConsult (in an urgent situation, no access to the internet, or with complex problems) to ring through.
Unfortunately we have ongoing technical problems with our telephone system - looping the main message on repeat ad nauseam, and generally failing to work as it should. We have been as frustrated by this as you have and apologise for the upset that it has caused. There are many issues which we are actively addressing, and we hope to have much better access in the near future. We know there will still be periods of high telephone demand, but we will try and ensure adequate phone lines and staff to address this. For those of you who need or want to use the telephone as a way of contacting us, we are doing our best to make sure that you are able to easily do so.
Our eConsult system
Our current system is that all consultations (eConsultations and telephone) are triaged by a Senior Clinician on the day. We then book patients in for appointments and let them know within 48 hours of submission when they will be contacted by a healthcare professional. We receive around 2,000 requests to speak to a GP every week and manage this by using our whole Practice Team to provide the safest and most efficient care to patients. This new way of working helps us streamline the huge amount of demand and prioritise those who need more urgent care. Please remember that we GPs find it extremely helpful to know as much about your condition as possible before we contact you, so the more detail you submit via e-consult, the better the service we can provide.
All GP practices are now required to offer an online platform for patients to contact us for clinical problems, chronic disease reviews and administrative functions. We know that this isn't suitable for everyone to use and we apologise if you have felt undue pressure to convert to this system. More than 65% of patients using e-consult are been happy with the service, and we are trying to ensure that the system will work well for all patients and staff alike.
Face to face appointments
With lockdown easing we are all now seeing a lot more patients face to face. However, we are still operating a strict telephone triage first policy. We have learnt that with advancements in digital technology that we do not always need to see patients within the surgery. Photographs and video consultations can be incredibly useful tools and ones which we wish to continue to embrace going forward. We see patients where having a hands-on examination is going to add true value. We have respected that many people have not wanted to come into the surgery at the height of Covid. We have tried to work with you, not against you. We really do want to see those who need to be seen and recognise that there may be a lot of unmet need out there.
The surgery has been open for business all the way through this pandemic. Many of us have worked from the surgery all the time and we have ensured that our most vulnerable staff have been protected and yet able to work remotely. Our priority has been to keep our patients and our staff safe throughout. We have ensured safety by keeping our doors shut to people walking in off the street and working to an appointment only service. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE SURGERY IS CLOSED - WE ARE VERY MUCH OPEN. Reception staff man the doors and we have extra screens in place for their safety. The waiting room has distanced, regularly cleaned chairs. We have converted our second entrance porch to a "hot room" for seeing patients who may pose a direct covid risk (e.g children with high temperatures of unknown cause). All clinicians clean their rooms between every patient they see. Like hairdressers and dentists we are seeing patients by appointment only. Unlike hairdressers and dentists we have done this throughout the pandemic. We are closely planning how we will ‘open up’ more as restrictions are lifted and cases reduce further, but many new ways of working are here to stay, and we have to accept that long queues at the desk and heaving waiting rooms need to be a thing of the past.
We are all working very hard and many of the GPs are working 12+ hour days. We have a great team of health care professionals at Poplar Grove Practice including GPs, nurses, paramedics and clinical pharmacists. We are a training practice with GP trainees. Everyone has unique skills and we work amazingly well together as a team. If we ask you to see a paramedic or a pharmacist, it is because we feel they are the best person to deal with your complaint/condition, and not because we are work shy.
Aylesbury Vaccination Hub
We have been proud and honoured to be very actively involved in the setting up and running of the Aylesbury PCN Vaccination hub at Stoke Mandeville stadium. Many of our staff both clinical and non-clinical are giving up their days off and weekends to work there. This has been on top of our normal working days, not instead of. We hope you would agree that this has been a huge success and is one of the main reasons that we can now look to the future.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- Self care: With demand so much higher than pre-pandemic, we are struggling to cope. We need every patient to work with us to take some responsibility for their own health going forward. The range of clinical complaints we are being asked to deal with ranges from very serious and complex clinical conditions to the most minor ailments. We want to provide the best quality of clinical care to you all and are desperate not to miss any serious conditions. However, we need those of you with minor, self-limiting conditions to self-care, use pharmacies and manage your issues away from the practice. Examples of these types of conditions include mild hayfever, mild eczema, infrequent migraines and headaches, common colds, earwax, infrequent indigestion.
- Get involved! Come and join our Patient Participation Group. We would love more people to get involved through our PPG, which does have a real voice and standing at the surgery. To find out more click here. We also always welcome any constructive feedback you may have.
Please be part of the solution not the problem. We hope that we can all work together to provide the best possible care to all our community whilst keeping people as safe as possible.