GPs issue open letter about current pressure and how people can help

By Barrie Hudson - 8 October 2021

CommunityHealth
  • The open letter is signed by three of the region's most senior doctors

    The open letter is signed by three of the region's most senior doctors

Leading GPs are calling on people in Swindon and the surrounding area to help the NHS at a difficult time.

The doctors, who work for the Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, have issued an open letter detailing pressure on the NHS.

The letter, which has been signed by the CCG’s three locality clinical leads, Dr Bryn Bird, Dr Amanda Webb and Dr Edd Rendell, offers an insight into the increasing demand being seen by frontline GPs and their teams.

The letter says, in part: “Our GP practices will always offer appointments, either face to face, or via remote consultation, with the health and care professional most appropriate for a patient’s needs.

“We know that people have been hugely supportive of us throughout the pandemic, and we truly appreciate this, but it’s important to remember that covid-19 has not gone away, and we still need your help.”

Available to read in full on the CCG website, the letter explains how staff absences, rising coronavirus cases and an increase in demand for urgent and emergency care has created the kind of pressure not usually seen outside of winter.

The GPs also reveal how practices are now working differently, with more consultations happening remotely, either by phone or video call.

These virtual appointments, which are happening alongside those carried out in person, allow clinicians to be more efficient with their time, while also helping to prevent overcrowding in practice waiting rooms.

Local people are urged to play their part and do whatever they can to support their local NHS at this busy time.

Practical steps include visiting a pharmacy for health advice and information instead of automatically calling a GP practice, and using the NHS 111 service when unsure of where to go for the most appropriate care and treatment.

Other measures people can take to support their own health and wellbeing include having the necessary vaccinations for both covid-19 and flu, as well as investing in a home medicine cabinet containing essential items such as a digital thermometer, paracetamol and anti-diarrhoea tablets.

Dr Ruth Grabham, Medical Director, said: “As a clinician, I’m beginning to see more people coming down with non-covid-related conditions as the weather turns colder, but the good thing is that many minor illnesses can be safely managed at home through rest and by already having the recommended items in your medicine cabinet.”

General health advice is available through the NHS app and at www.nhs.uk, and the doctors' letter can be read in full at www.bswccg.nhs.uk

It is also reproduced below:

"An open letter to people living in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire

It’s no secret that GP practices in our area are incredibly busy right now, and while we know this may cause some to have concerns about not being able to access care, we want to reassure our communities that we are open.

However, the pressure we are currently seeing, which stems from a mixture of staff absences, increasing numbers of coronavirus cases and an increase in demand for urgent and emergency care, means we are working in conditions not usually seen outside the middle of winter.

During August, which is the last full month for which statistics are available, GP practices in our area carried out more than 366,000 appointments, of which more than half (56 per cent) took place in person.

This is up by more than 50,000 when compared to August of last year, which means our teams are now providing around 2,400 more appointments each day.

We know some patients have struggled recently to get through to their practice, and we know this hasn’t been ideal, but please be assured that our practices are open, as they have been throughout the entirety of the pandemic.

Coronavirus meant that we had to adapt the way we offered appointments, so that we could continue to see patients in a way that kept both patients and our practice staff safe.

This meant carrying out more telephone and video consultations, which many patients told us they preferred, especially at this current time.

As well as preventing the need for people to travel, remote appointments give people the convenience of being able to be seen and treated within their own home or at work, while also helping us to avoid having crowded waiting rooms in our practices.

That does not mean in-person discussions are no longer available – they absolutely are – especially for people with potentially serious health concerns.

Our GP practices will always offer appointments, either face to face, or via remote consultation, with the health and care professional most appropriate for a patient’s needs.

We know that people have been hugely supportive of us throughout the pandemic, and we truly appreciate this, but it’s important to remember that Covid-19 has not gone away, and we still need your help.

When our receptionists ask questions on the phone, this is not a barrier, but an important process to ensure that people are cared for in the most appropriate way, and by the most appropriate professional, such as a physiotherapist, mental health nurse or phlebotomist, all of whom are experts in their area.

So please be kind, and remember that our administrative teams are here to help, just as much as our clinicians.

Staying home when feeling under the weather, as well as visiting a local pharmacy for minor illnesses and injuries, keeps more appointments available for those who really need them.

Many pharmacies also have a private treatment room for confidential consultations and discussions, which can usually be had without an appointment.

NHS 111 online is a great tool for those thinking about accessing care, but unsure of where to go, as the service provides information and advice specific to a person’s symptoms and, where appropriate, directions to other healthcare options.

By taking these steps, as well as taking personal precautions such as having vaccinations for Covid-19 and flu, if eligible, you will be playing your part in supporting your local practice during this exceptionally busy time.

Our health services are under enormous pressure, but we are open and available.

Please continue to play your part by being kind to our staff, socially distancing where possible and wearing a face covering in all healthcare settings.

Thank you.

Dr Bryn Bird,
Locality Clinical Lead, Bath and North East Somerset

Dr Amanda Webb,
Locality Clinical Lead, Swindon

Dr Edd Rendell,

Locality Clinical Lead, Wiltshire"

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