GP surgeries in Bedford embrace new technology and adapt quickly to coronavirus challenges

NHS online consultation

Bedford’s GP surgeries have been praised for the way they have risen to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

GPs surgeries throughout the UK have had to transform the way they work in the last three weeks to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The BBC Shared Data Unit has revealed that from March 2019 – February 2020, just 2% of GP appointments in Bedford were carried out using video-link and 14% of appointments were via phone or video-link.

Over 80% of appointments were carried out face-to-face.

Following government guidance, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) says that has been turned on its head.

Face-to-face contact with a GP is now making up just 7% of all contact, RCGP’s chairman said, as he praised the profession’s “remarkable “response.

Age UK has, however, urged doctors not to drop home visits and to seek out vulnerable patients “proactively”.

In 2019, two thirds of all regional NHS commissioning areas carried out no video call appointments, NHS data shows.

Nicola Smith, Clinical Chair, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups commented, “As GP practices across our area adapt how they deliver care to patients during this difficult time, ensuring the safety of patients and staff is their number one priority.

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“A number of changes have had to be made to the way GPs deliver services to ensure they can continue to care for patients whilst keeping everyone safe.

“This has been quite a change for practices who have risen to the challenge admirably, installing new systems, embracing new technology and working closely with partners to maintain services.

“Patients have also stepped up to the challenge, with those in the older age groups appreciating that telephone and video consultations are a good way to connect with their GP practice, as most prefer not to attend the surgery at the current time.

“As some of the routine work is suspended, practices are using their time to focus on the more frail and vulnerable groups including care home residents and are working closely with community services, supporting them in the important work they do.

“We understand that this has been quite a change for patients but would like to reassure them that their GP practice is there for them and services continue to be delivered albeit in new ways.

“Some of these new systems may well continue to be used in the future, if they prove to be the best way to deliver services to patients.”

Currently, patients are asked to not visit their GP practice in person.

Patients should call to make an appointment as normal and the practice will be able to arrange a telephone or online consultation wherever practical.

Practices are seeing patients face to face and providing home visits in particular circumstances but to protect patients and staff a phone call is made first in order to make sure this is absolutely necessary.

If people need medical advice for Covid-19 suspected symptoms they should go online to NHS111 in the first instance, they should not visit their GP or pharmacy if they have symptoms, they should only call NHS111 if they do not have online access.

The NHS111 service will support patients with advice and guidance and if required provide a call back from a clinician, however most people will be able to manage their symptoms at home.  Those with symptoms must follow the self-isolation advice for them and their household.

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