A message from Dr Tim Caroe, Chief Medical Officer for Sussex Commissioners and a GP in Eastbourne:
“I would like to assure everyone that the NHS is working extremely hard to continue to provide the care and support that people need during this pandemic.
“GP practices are one of the main NHS services which people use when they need medical help.
“Our GP practices are open. Every GP practice across Sussex is working hard to continue to provide care, to work to catch up from earlier this year and in some cases to do all this with reduced teams due to staff being unwell or self-isolating.
“This is a very different situation to what most of us in the NHS are used to. Just as we are having to continue to adapt our personal lives as a result of the pandemic, so are we having to adapt how we are working and how we are looking after our patients.
“Your GP practice is having to provide regular services, protect patients and staff and support our health and care partners to maintain care for our patients – all whilst maintaining social distancing and following intense infection control processes.
“This means we need to work in new ways – we are asking patients not to just turn up to the practice building but instead to telephone or contact the practice online in the first instance.
“This means we can keep people in the practice buildings to a minimum, which keeps everyone as safe as possible.
“We are also triaging more than we used to. This means when you tell us what is wrong, either on the telephone or online, we consider the best way to help you.
“This may be seeing a doctor in the way you used to, but it may also mean a conversation on the phone, or a video consultation, or perhaps there’s a problem that can just be dealt with by sending a simple text.
“For many people these new ways of working have made it much easier to get the help and support they need.
“And perhaps someone other than a doctor might be the best person to help – other people working in the practice might be most appropriate, for example a nurse, paramedic or a pharmacist.
“By working in this way, it means we can help more effectively, so in fact often actually increasing the number of people we are supporting.
“All this does not mean that GPs are not seeing people – you will absolutely get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor if you need it.
“And it’s not just GPs seeing people. Our healthcare assistants and nurses are seeing patients and also delivering flu vaccinations to protect patients ahead of the winter season.
“I know that these different ways of working sometimes mean that it takes longer than it would have previously to get through to your GP practice on the phone; our receptionists are working very hard to manage the increased number of calls and are trying to reach everyone as quickly as they can.
“If your practice has an online offering, why not consider using it so that you can free up the phone system for someone else who may not be so digitally-minded.
“I understand how difficult and worrying it can be when you are ill and you are trying to get help. I know that people can sometimes take their frustrations out on people who are only trying to help them.
“As we head into the winter months, when things are likely to get even busier, I would like to ask everyone to be kind to each other. It goes a long way.”
It’s more important than ever to think about your own care
It's Self Care Week from November 16-22 and this year more than ever it’s important that we think about our own self care.
When it comes to our health there are many things that we can do ourselves – from having a well-stocked medicine cupboard for common illnesses and injuries to knowing how best we can get help, to taking steps to take more control of our own wellbeing.
Follow national guidance on hands, face, space to protect ourselves and our loved ones
Make sure you have had or are booked in for your free flu jab if you are eligible
Eat well and take regular exercise
Make positive lifestyle choices that will set you up for years to come
Look after your mental wellbeing by staying connected, do things that make you happy and reach out for help if you need it.
‘The practice team have been brilliant and really supported me’
Sarah’s story: “I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic and at the age of 65 I normally have a lot of contact with my GP practice.
“Since the start of the pandemic, my practice team have been brilliant and really supported me.
“I’ve had no problems ordering prescriptions online and then getting hold of them.
“I’ve spoken to my doctor a few times and seen him once when I really needed to, but otherwise it has actually really helped that I didn’t have to go out for the appointment and I could do it all from home.
“It has taken much longer to get through to my practice some days, which can be frustrating, but if everyone is calling rather than visiting it is going to take a bit longer, isn’t it?”