General practices are open but working differently
Over recent months since the lifting of the national lockdown and reduction in Coronavirus cases, Bromley general practices and the CCG have received numerous enquiries and some complaints from our patients that their registered GP practice is ‘not open’, ‘not offering doctor appointments’ or ‘not seeing patients face to face’.
Please note that all 43 GP practices in Bromley are open, and have remained open throughout the pandemic. Practices are open from 8am until 6.30pm Monday to Friday as a minimum
All practices are offering face to face appointments to patients that have been assessed by a doctor or nurse (or other clinically trained person within the practice) and have been deemed to require physical examination. This assessment is sometimes called ‘triage’. For many patients, assessment has found that they can be treated through a telephone, email or video consultation without the need to travel into the surgery. Many patients have reported being satisfied with this approach because they do not need to balance work, childcare or other commitments with travelling and have found completing the online consulting forms (available through GP practice websites as e-consult) to be an easier way to get help in their own time.
Doctors and other clinicians are able to give advice, issue prescriptions or make onward referrals for tests or specialist appointments without physically examining patients, based on patient symptoms and history. Where it would not be safe or in the patients best interests to do this, a face to face appointment will be booked. This is usually at the GP practice itself, but may be at a nearby clinic or other health centre. For patients that do not have computer or internet access, telephone appointments or face to face appointments are available. Face coverings are mandatory for attending GP practices, unless exemptions apply. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own
We are asking our patients to bear with us and our GP practices at this challenging time. Practices have had to make significant changes over a very short period of time to change how they use technology, how they use their surgery premises and who and how staff are working within the practice. For many GP practices, there have been staff taken sick or shielding which has caused pressure. It is likely that triaging patients for physical examination first and electronic consulting will remain in place for some time. Also, different staffing beyond just doctors and nurses are working in practices now, including pharmacists, paramedics, and people who can help you with social and non-medical wellbeing (called social prescribers). These may be more appropriate to help to meet your needs more quickly and effectively.
If you do have a medical problem, either physical health or mental health, please do not hesitate to contact your GP practice. We are here to support you. Do not put off asking for help.
We would also encourage all patients to continue to attend for their normal screening tests, such as smear tests – our team have been offering these for some time now and it is important for your health that these tests continue to be carried out.