As patients feel more comfortable coming into the GP practice, pressure on primary care services is rising as more patients are coming forward who have avoided seeking help during the pandemic. Primary Care is working tirelessly to ensure that services are still here for patients. There are also high numbers of patients requiring support whilst waiting for hospital treatment, a significant increase in demand for mental health services and a surge in milder Covid cases that may require treatment outside of hospital.
With booster Covid vaccinations coming up for some patients, and an anticipated increased demand for flu vaccinations, pressures will continue, if not increase, as we head towards winter.
Whilst Government advice on mask-wearing and social distancing changed on 19th July, in all health care settings, infection control measures and mask wearing remain in place, to protect both staff and patients. This means that practices will continue to need to clean between patients and replace PPE which will result in a further impact on capacity with face to face appointments taking longer.
Therefore, we are reminding patients that, instead of ringing the GP practice, there are other ways to access some GP services for things like repeat prescriptions, getting non-urgent advice, accessing your medical record, your NHS number and accessing your COVID passport.
The NHS app is one of these ways and the pandemic has seen an increase in patients downloading and using the NHS app and other digital health services. Many patients are taking a more proactive responsibility in managing their own health and the NHS app is empowering them to do this through secure online access to clinicians, personalised health information, digital tools and advice that helps them to better manage their conditions.
The NHS app is quick to set up and free to use. Anyone over 13 who is registered with a GP surgery can download the NHS app to order a repeat prescription, book or cancel an appointment and see details of upcoming and past appointments, view their health record including details of current and past medicines and see test results, and seek health advice.
Patients can also contact their GP practice without having to wait on the phone or take time out to come into the practice by doing an online consultation. Using a smartphone, tablet or computer, patients can contact their practice about a new problem or an ongoing issue, ask questions or tell their GP about symptoms. Practices ensure that patients are dealt with by the right person in the team, as quickly and appropriately as possible. Where patients need to be seen face to face an appointment at the practice will still be arranged as usual.
In the short term the August bank holiday weekend is approaching, meaning GP practices will be closed on 30th August, and this will put health services under additional strain.
For more information about the app please visit https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-app/.