GP surgery staff have played a key role in Wales’ world-leading vaccination roll out, but they now need the public’s support as they continue to adapt to the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, according to one of North Wales’ top doctors.
Dr Chris Stockport, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Executive Director of Primary and Community Care, is appealing for people to ‘help us to help you’, as primary care services in North Wales face a range of challenges. These include catching up with a large backlog of routine work that had to be suspended to support the COVID-19 response, unprecedented new demands for care, national recruitment difficulties, continued COVID-19 restrictions and the ongoing vaccination programme.
People are being urged to be understanding, access the most appropriate health care services for their needs, and be respectful to hard-pressed GP practice staff – who have borne the brunt of an increase in abusive behaviour over recent months.
“As we slowly emerge from COVID-19 restrictions, we need people to understand that we are busier than ever as we work to be able to offer the type of service they received before the pandemic,” explained Dr Stockport.
“Up until the start of June, primary care had given almost two-thirds (385,000) of the total COVID-19 vaccinations across North Wales, playing a key role in one of the most efficient vaccination rollouts in the world. This is helping us turn the tide on the pandemic but continues to see primary care staff regularly work into evenings and throughout weekends to fit this in.
“Despite this huge logistical challenge and the additional workload that comes with it, primary care services have remained open and continue to be available for those who require support. My thanks go to these teams across North Wales.
“However, we are facing a perfect storm of unprecedented challenges over the coming months and need the public’s help to ensure that we can continue to provide the most appropriate support for people as quickly as possible.
“We understand that people can feel frustrated when they can’t get an appointment, and we know that there are certain areas of North Wales where this is being felt more acutely. By working together, you can help us to help you.
“There are a number of ways that you can help us to help you over the coming months:
Please respect our staff
“Please be polite and respectful to our primary care reception staff and call handlers, who are doing their very best to help you in often difficult circumstances. We have seen a rise in abusive behaviour towards GP practice staff in recent months and this is totally unacceptable.”
The wider primary care team
“There are many different healthcare professionals working within primary care who are highly capable of providing appropriate support. This can include primary care nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
“If you are offered an appointment with a primary care health professional instead of a GP, this doesn’t mean that your will get a lesser service, or that your health concern is being treated less seriously.”
Consider Community Pharmacy
“Please remember that community pharmacies can provide expert advice and guidance about treating common ailments, conditions and their symptoms.
“Appointments are not always needed but you might be asked to wait or pop back if they are busy. Many pharmacies are open outside of usual hours and into the evening.
“You can find your nearest community pharmacy on our website: https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/services/health-services1/where-do-i-go/”
Triage, phone and video consultation are in place to keep you safe
“We know that triage, phone and video consultation are not perfect for everyone, but some people have found this to be a fantastic improvement. We are working hard to get the balance right.
“Please be patient and remember that these systems have been introduced to keep you safe and help us work as efficiently as possible, as we deal with unprecedented demand for care. If, following triage a face to face appointment is required, then we are committed to offering one.”
Out of hours support
“You can now call 111 for free access to urgent medical support and guidance in north Wales. This easy-to-remember number is free and provides access to both GP Out of Hours services and the health advice previously delivered by NHS Direct Wales
“Please call NHS 111 Wales if your condition is urgent but not life threatening or if you need urgent medical attention from outside GP normal opening hours that cannot wait until the next working day. Please call 999 in a medical emergency.
“Your call will be answered by a trained call handler who will take some details. You will then be offered guidance and support, directed to the most appropriate service, or offered an appointment at one of our primary care centres. A home visit may be arranged if necessary.”
For further information on how to access the most appropriate healthcare services in your local area please visit the BCUHB website: https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/services/health-services1/where-do-i-go/