24th May 2021
We are all relieved that there seems to be some light at the end of the COVID tunnel!
You have really helped us get through this pandemic and to keep the service going – you have been patient, and understanding, and supportive – thank you, we are very grateful indeed.
Now, you (the patients) and we (the practice) are facing some different challenges, and it would be great if we could tackle them together.
You will likely be aware that NHS England announced last week that general practice was open again, and that patients can ask for face to face appointments if they want them.
We have to confess we found this slightly mystifying, and quite upsetting, because the Thornton Practice has been open throughout the pandemic, and we have been seeing our patients face to face whenever it was clinically necessary. We have done as much as possible by telephone or video, but we have seen a lot of patients face to face over the last 12 months, and we have never shut our doors to our patients.
We are also worried because the announcement from NHS England seems to suggest that we can all get back to ‘normal’ immediately. Sadly this is not realistic.
Here are some of the challenges as we see them:
- Because of COVID the regular chronic disease checks (for diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma etc) have either been on hold or have been happening in different ways. We know this has been frustrating for you, and it has been frustrating for us as well. We are all really relieved that chronic disease reviews are starting up again in earnest.
- As you can imagine we have a big backlog of patients who need their chronic disease reviews with the nurse. Because of continued COVID infection control measures and the vaccine clinics we still have fewer nurse appointments than we did. We really are working as hard as we can to get to you all as soon as we can. But we cannot see everyone in a matter of a few weeks. It is going to take many months to catch up.
- We have been really busy with the COVID vaccination programme so this has significantly reduced the number of other appointments we have available.
- We try very hard to strictly follow to the infection control rules about social distancing, cleaning etc. There has been no relaxation in those measures yet. This means we have to be careful about the number of people in the waiting room, we have to do extra cleaning etc and it does slow things down.
- Many of you have now been hanging on for a long time to contact us about health concerns because of COVID restrictions and because you know we have been busy. We hear a lot that you know we are busy and you didn’t want to bother us. Now many of you are feeling you really need to be seen after all this time. We really do understand that.
- Often, waiting quite a long time to see a doctor about a health worry doesn’t actually cause any harm to a patient. But sometimes, when a long time goes by, the health problem can become much more complicated and more difficult to treat. So one aspect of this is that we are seeing more complicated problems that take longer to deal with. Interestingly, we are also seeing a lot more quite trivial problems that don’t really need a doctor or nurse at all, and this is taking up quite a lot of our time. So it is a very difficult balance for you and for us.
- You might recall that before the pandemic, when you asked for an appointment the patient advisors would ask you some questions so that we could decide how best to help you. That might have been a face to face appointment. Or it might have been a problem that we could help you with over the phone, or by simply sending a question/message to a doctor or nurse. We would love to see everyone face to face. But at the moment we simply do not have the capacity and it often isn’t necessary.
- Waiting times for hospital appointments and operations are getting long. We know this is really difficult for you. It is really frustrating for us as well. And unfortunately there is really nothing we can do that will make a difference.
We need your help
- We need to ask you to help us by being patient. We are trying to help as quickly as we can. We have to try to identify patients who need more urgent help than others.
- If you can’t get the appointment you want, when you want it, please bear with us. We are sorry.
- We know it’s difficult for you and people are feeling frustrated, but please be patient with our patient advisors who answer the phones. They are trying to help you in the most appropriate way. Please don’t get cross with them. Please don’t shout at them.
- We need to ask you to help us by accepting a telephone appointment if we feel the problem is something that doesn’t need a face to face appointment. We promise that if it becomes clear you do need a face to face appointment, then you will get one.
- If you feel you are really unwell, or might have a serious condition we want you to contact us. Please don’t let the challenges we have described put you off.
Even though there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel, the long term impact of the pandemic is going to continue for quite a long time yet. We are really sorry if you feel angry or upset about what we have written here.
We always welcome feedback from patients.
If you would like to share your views about all this you could talk to a member of the Patient Participation Group. You can contact them via their Facebook page or you can email the practice on FWCCG.thorntonpractice.nhs.uk