During the COVID-19 pandemic, primary care services are working in a different way to prevent the spread of the disease and protect patients and staff, while still providing essential services.
Where patients are advised that a face-to-face appointment is necessary, services have taken measures to minimise risk to patients and staff.
Find out more about how you’re being kept safe in healthcare settings across the Fylde Coast here. Find out more about when and how you should access GP services here: accessing primary care services.
How services are working
The threat of infection from COVID-19 still exists within our communities, and locally, patients are being asked to continue to follow the guidance, stick to any restrictions in place and take the necessary precautions such as wearing face coverings and practicing good hygiene.
GP practices are open and continue to provide services as they have done throughout the pandemic. This means that for patients, their GP practice is open and providing GP services.
GP practice buildings are public buildings and as such must be kept COVID-secure. Your GP practice will already have a process in place for managing entry into the premises to help minimise the risk of anybody spreading the virus. Please continue to follow this.
New ways of providing GP services have been introduced in order to maintain access to your GP practice team whilst protecting you, others and staff. Triage (making an assessment of your condition and prioritising care accordingly) is an important part of how GP practices work. This has always been in place but has been vitally important during the pandemic.
GP practices are open and have been providing GP services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have learned during the pandemic, that they can conduct consultations very well with the vast majority of patients using digital technology. The majority of common conditions can be assessed and diagnosed by your doctor by telephone or video consultation. They are experienced and skilled in doing this. Using technology like this will help to protect you, your family and loved ones – and GP practice staff from the potential risk of the virus.
If your doctor judges that your condition needs to a consultation in a face-to-face appointment then this will be arranged, however this will be a clinical decision by the doctor based on their judgement of the absolute need to do so.
These new ways of working provide mutual benefits to patients and your GP practice which is why before the pandemic we had a plan to start introducing these more frequently.
The use of these digital technologies has been shown to improve patient experiences thanks to the convenience and increased access that they provide. GPs want to make sure that these new ways of working and the benefits they bring are not lost. COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our daily lives, with lots of positive changes. These new ways of accessing your GP and receiving care or treatment are just one of those.
Face coverings in general practice
People infected with COVID-19 can have very mild or no respiratory symptoms (asymptomatic) and can transmit the virus to others without being aware of it.
In line with recent recommendations from the World Health Organisation, we are introducing new measures in general practice services across Lancashire and South Cumbria to keep visitors, patients and staff safe.
You will now need to wear a face covering when you come to your GP surgery.
What does this mean for me?
We can all play a role in reducing the spread of coronavirus and keeping our NHS services safe. If you are coming to an NHS service as a patient or visitor, it is important that you wear a face covering at all times. This is for your safety and the safety of other patients and staff.
Face coverings can be cloth and/or homemade, and advice on how to wear and make one can be found on the government website. Face coverings worn as part of religious beliefs or cultural practice are also acceptable, providing they are not loose and cover the mouth and nose.
We are asking that you plan in advance and bring a face covering with you whenever possible, but if you do not have one available when you come to a service, you will be provided with a face mask on arrival.
If you are currently shielding and have been provided with a surgical face mask for your appointments, please continue to use this. If you have not been provided with a surgical face mask, you should wear a face covering.
For some people, wearing a face covering may be difficult due to physical or mental health conditions. In these instances, other measures will be considered on a case by case basis, for example timed appointments and being seen immediately on arrival.
If you are a deaf or hearing impaired, our staff have a range of communication options to ensure that they can communicate effectively with you. This might include the use of clear masks where possible, as well as visual aids such as writing things down, speech to text apps and sign language.
All visitors will be expected to comply with existing social distancing and hand hygiene measures in addition to the face coverings while in the general practice setting.