**An update from Corbett Medical Practice, Ombersley Medical Centre, Salters Medical Practice and Spa Medical Practice**
“The impact of coronavirus on General Practice has been huge. All our routine care stopped, except vaccinations. All new illnesses have had to be assessed by phone and by video, and all coronavirus cases have been looked after by a special GP and nurse team, the COVID Medical Service (CMS).
We have worked across the town to deliver care from three sites, keeping one site clean for high risk staff. All our staff have learnt new roles and our patients have become tech wizards, sending us photos and videos.We have been so impressed at how well all the staff and patients have adapted and worked together to find innovative ways forward.
Since no one was socialising and the schools were closed, all the usual spring bugs and infections stopped. There were fewer car accidents, and fewer injuries at work and in sport. But there was coronavirus, and there has been a lot of anxiety and distress in people’s lives because of it. Those who caught the virus did not describe it as a trivial infection at all, but thankfully the vast majority have come through it without lasting damage.
For now, it seems to have paused, and we can start to pick up where we left off in March.We have to start resuming some routine care, while still keeping the footfall in the practices as low as possible, so we don’t become a source of infection for our patients or our staff. If you are asked to come in, please come alone if you can and wear a mask. Don’t come if you have a temperature that day, and please tell us before you come if a household member has COVID. We will see you in a special zone.
The cervical smear programme has restarted for those most in need, so if you have had a letter in the last month then contact your practice for an appointment. We expect that those who missed out in the last few months will be recalled over the next year. For those women who had their contraceptive injections changed, you may get a call to suggest a newer alternative that you can do yourself, or a check up by phone for the pill you were swapped to.
We are starting to call patients in for overdue blood tests, particularly those on high risk medications. Even if you are Shielded, you are safe to come for these. We each have a special quiet hour at the beginning of the day just for Shielded patients. We also will call in those with a chronic disease for their blood test too. We will start other routine blood tests as time goes on.Your practice nurse or GP is likely to phone you to monitor any long term conditions you may have. If you have a blood pressure machine, an oxygen meter, or blood glucose meter, please check your readings at home as that will help us. You may find you are sent a questionnaire to your mobile phone about asthma or COPD. If you answer this the results go straight into your notes for your GP or nurse to see.
You may get a call from your Practice Clinical Pharmacist if you are due for a review of your arthritis pain medication, or other bone and joint conditions, and if you have mental health problems, or problems other than the conditions mentioned above, then your usual GP’s are all still here, and you can book phone calls with them.
The most important thing this autumn is the ‘flu vaccination programme. We really need everyone who should have the vaccine to come early for it. We must avoid a flu epidemic this year as it will be so difficult to distinguish it from a resurgence of the pandemic coronavirus. We are expecting the Department of Health to say everyone over 50 should have it this year, although this is not confirmed yet. This is in addition to all those with long term conditions, and all young children. There are different vaccines for different ages, so you may find you are invited to a specific clinic this year.
As time goes on we expect the hospital clinics to restart, but the priority will still be the suspected cancer cases, so expect significant delays for non-urgent hospital referrals. We GP’s have no control over the hospital booking systems, so if you think you have been missed contact your Consultant’s secretary rather than us please.We hope we can get as much routine care delivered as possible in the summer months, before the picture is complicated again in the autumn by seasonal infections that may or may not be a restarting of coronavirus cases. We expect we will have to stop some routine care again when the cases of COVID rise again. It seems less likely that we will have a “second peak”, but more that we will have rolling hills of coronavirus, and so will have to hold back and then restart a few times to get through this.
The advice from the beginning of this still stands. Wash your hands, cover your coughs, stay home if you or a household member are unwell. But now, resume other health care, see family and friends, restart your life again, with care.”