Understanding the changes at The Orchard Medical Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic

On behalf of all the staff working at The Orchard Medical Centre, we would like to give you some information on the changes at the surgery due to the current pandemic.  This is a strange and challenging time for everyone.  Lots of businesses are working in different ways and our surgery is no different. However, all the usual significant medical problems won’t stop and we need to keep treating these as well as managing the impact of COVID-19.

This update explains how our working day has changed at the surgery, how you can help us and how to access services from the surgery at this time.

Day to day changes in the practice:

As you may have noticed our surgery doors are currently closed and only patients who have pre-booked face to face appointments are let in.  Prescriptions etc can be collected from the window at the front of the surgery. The majority of our clinical appointments have been changed to telephone calls to allow the assessment of patients without the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from unnecessary contact.  Consultation in the surgery is booked if required following the telephone consultation.

All of our staff are working incredibly hard at this time. They may be working in different ways to usual, such as consulting on the telephone or getting used to new features in our computer system; as well as having to keep up to date with guidelines, which can change on a daily basis. Please be patient with us if there are some glitches.

Some routine services which require face to face contact at the surgery are currently continuing:

  • Children’s vaccinations (especially as mumps and measles are also prevalent in the UK at the moment),
  • Dressings
  • Blood tests that are too important to wait – including warfarin monitoring.

However, in line with national guidance, we are currently stopping:

  • Travel advice and injections
  • Coil checks/ changes
  • NHS health checks and routine medication reviews
  • Minor surgery and injections
  • Spirometry
  • Routine monitoring blood tests that can safely wait

This list is likely to change in the coming weeks and months and any changes will be updated on our website.

So how can you help us?

Use our website if possible before you phone the surgery. Did you know that via our website you can: Request sick notes, request medication, view test results, ask queries to your GP and all other teams in the surgery.

Order prescriptions online via the NHS app or patient access if possible.  Prescriptions will then be sent electronically to your nominated pharmacy.   Pharmacies are also very busy at present and some have reduced their opening hours to allow them time to prepare prescriptions.

Contacting the surgery

If you do need to call the surgery, take a moment to think about why you are calling,

Can the problem wait and if so, for how long?

Use www.patient.info to find more out about your problem and some self-care advice. Please do still bother us” if something feels important or worrying to you. For example, if you are worried your symptoms may fit with the red flag signs for cancer we want to hear from you.

Routine referrals for outpatient assessment or operations are not currently being accepted by hospitals. Any change to this situation will be updated on our website.

If you do need a consultation with a member of our clinical team all appointments will be booked as a telephone call. This means a clinician will call you on the telephone, to work out if the problem can be managed entirely over the phone, if you need to be seen face to face in the surgery or via video consultation. If the clinician wants to hold a video consultation we will text you a link to set this up.  We can also now send sick notes via a text message attachment or email.

If we ask you to come to the surgery we may ask you to wait in the car until we call you in.  We will explain this further during your telephone consultation.  When you enter the surgery you will be asked to wash your hands prior to your appointment. If any of this will be difficult for you, please discuss when you are called.

Telephone ‘Top Tips’

As many more of our consultations will be conducted over the telephone at present, here are some ‘top tips’ to get the most from your consultation.

  • Put your phone ringer on loud and pick it up when it rings. Either a withheld number or the practice number (0117 9805100) will show on the display. We will try to call you three times, so do not call the surgery immediately after a missed call.  If you do this we may not be able to get through when trying again.
  • Don’t be offended if we start by checking your name before revealing who we are. This is to protect your confidentiality and prevent mistakes.
  • Take some time to think about the symptoms you are calling about. Maybe write some notes about what you want to discuss as a prompt.
  • Tell us what you are hoping to gain from the call and what you are worried about. If you have several things you want to talk about: tell us at the beginning of the call. This means we can help you prioritise the important problems.
  • Tell us if you don’t understand something we’ve said or aren’t clear on the plan. It may be helpful if you write down some notes as we go along and then repeat the plan back to us.
  • At the end of most consultations we do something called safety netting. This is planning together for what to do if symptoms get worse and helps you know the “red flags” or warning signs to look out for and what to do if this should happen.

Coronavirus symptoms

If you think you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, please use the 111 coronavirus website www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19 to assess your symptoms and give further advice.  If following this you feel you are becoming more unwell, or cannot manage your symptoms at home use the 111 coronavirus website again to review your symptoms to see if different management is required. You can call 111 if you are unable to get online.

Finally, please look after yourselves during this time.  Small things like eating well, keeping active and finding new ways to continue to connect with people, will help you stay healthy for whatever the next few months may hold.

With best wishes,

From the whole team at the Orchard Medical Centre