Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQs document is to try and answer some of the common questions we have been asked over the past week since we changed our appointment system and processes in light of the current Coronavirus Pandemic.
Why can’t we book a face-to-face appointment anymore?
Due to the current outbreak, government advice is now that all surgeries should conduct telephone or online consultations wherever possible to try and reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Having lots of sick or vulnerable patients sat in the waiting room will increase the risk of transmission and put those whom are most vulnerable at higher risk. For this reason, you are not currently able to book in for a face-to-face appointment.
Most problems we deal with in General Practice are mild self-limiting illnesses or problems that could be safely managed with self-care or telephone advice. Please do not come to surgery to try and book an appointment or if you are unwell. All requests for GP or nurse appointments must be phoned through to reception.
You will be asked several screening questions by reception to determine the correct pathway for your problem. This may mean that you are advised to contact another service, for example, 111 or to self-isolate and look after yourself at home. Please be assured we are following correct safety procedures to ensure that you all receive the best and most appropriate care possible in the current climate.
What's to stop me lying about my symptoms to get an appointment?
We know this has happened in other practices round the country, however, please be aware that by being dishonest about your symptoms, for instance, denying that you have a temperature or a cough, not only are you putting our clinicians and our staff at undue risk, but you are now also breaking the law.
Under new emergency legislation, The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, it is now an offence to provide false or misleading information intentionally or recklessly to any person carrying out a function under these Regulations. Additionally, under the same regulations, the Police will have the power to detain people infected or possibly infected with coronavirus.
These measures have been put in place to protect everyone and therefore we ask that you be responsible and think of not only yourself, but that of others who may come into contact with you.
But I might have coronavirus and just want checking out!
There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, as it is a virus, and antibiotics do not help. We cannot 'check you' to tell you if it definitely is coronavirus or not and we do not have any access to testing.
Given significant community spread of coronavirus, you might well have it if you develop symptoms, but it is actually more important that you self-isolate to prevent further spread of infection. This is to protect yourself and others, therefore, please do not come to surgery if you think you have it.
Can't I just walk in and get an appointment at the front desk?
Because coronavirus is now spreading quickly in the community, we have to assume that literally anybody could have the infection, whether they know it or not, unless we screen them by telephone first. If you just walk in, we would not have had the opportunity to do this screening, and therefore you could be putting yourself and others at risk.
Therefore, we do not recommend you just walk in to the building and if you do, we will advise you to leave immediately. We will be unable to deal with your situation at the front desk. If you are looking for medical advice, we ask that you return home and call us by phone.
We know this represents a drastic change to what you might be used to, and a change from usual behaviour of trying to get a precious face-to-face appointment, but it is necessary in order to protect everyone from coronavirus infection. So, please, don’t walk in, always ring us first.
Some things can’t be dealt with by telephone though
This is correct. There is a small proportion of problems that cannot be dealt with effectively by telephone. In these situations, the GP will assess the problem over the phone first and if necessary, we may suggest a video consultation as an alternative if we feel it would be helpful.
In very few circumstances we may still feel we need to see you face-to-face and we will then book you an appointment to come to the surgery. These face-to-face appointments will only be offered if we feel the patient may come to significant harm by not being seen promptly and if we feel there is something we may be able to offer face-to-face that would alter the course of the illness, e.g., suspected cancer.
For all other routine or longer standing problems we will advise that you will have to wait until the current outbreak is under control and systems return to normal. Although we appreciate this can be frustrating to wait we need to be clear that during the current pandemic, the NHS has declared coronavirus a level 4 incident - the highest level of emergency preparedness planning, therefore it is not able to operate 'business as usual' and things you may have previously been to see a GP about promptly may have to wait or be managed remotely.
What about online booking for appointments then?
Because we are unable to screen you for infection by telephone if you book an online appointment, we have followed national guidance to suspend online booking. If you feel you need to see us, we advise that you ring and we can try and help.
What about my smear test?
Many services our nursing staff offer can also realistically be postponed or wait until the current pandemic is over without significant adverse consequences to your health. We have published a list of which nursing services will still be going ahead and which will not during this time.
In terms of smear tests, it is important to remember that this is a screening test only, which is routinely done every 3-5 years. A delay in having your smear test is very unlikely to cause you any adverse outcomes. Smears are delayed routinely in other circumstances such as during pregnancy, so please do not panic.
If you have recently had an abnormal smear or previous treatment for abnormalities to your cervix you may have smears every 6-12 months and for this subgroup of women we will continue to do your smears during the pandemic, as we feel adverse effects from delaying smears in this situation would be higher.
Again, although some of the services you have been used to having will now be temporarily stopped and you may feel frustrated by this, please rest assured we have made these decisions based on safety.
What about my baby's immunisations?
Some nursing procedures are still being carried out, such as baby imms. Please see this FAQs document
The full list of nurse procedures that will or will not be carried out is found on ivy.gs/gp2.
Will my prebooked face-to-face appointment still go ahead?
All face-to-face appointments previously booked are in the process of being cancelled. Reception are contacting all affected patients in this situation to inform them of this and what will happen next.
For most people these appointments will be suitable to be rearranged once the current pandemic is over and we ask that you contact us at that time to rearrange if still necessary.
If you feel that your problem cannot possibly wait until the pandemic is over, then please tell reception and they will change your existing appointment to a telephone appointment. Please be responsible and only request this if your problem genuinely cannot wait.
How do we get repeat prescriptions?
We ask that you place all requests for repeat medications in the black letter box outside surgery, order online or post it to us. We will not be accepting requests over the counter nor by telephone.
Where possible we aim to send all prescriptions electronically to the chemist to avoid the need for you to come to reception. We therefore kindly request that you choose a nominated pharmacy where you will be able to collect your medications directly. Please put your nomination on your repeat slip when you are requesting your repeats.
To order your prescriptions online, without the need for dropping off your prescription slip at the surgery, you need to apply for online access for prescriptions. Please go to ivy.gs/online for more information.
What about my medication or long-term condition review?
In accordance with national guidance, we are postponing all routine face-to-face work. This includes reviews of medication, long-term condition reviews, NHS health checks, baby checks, blood/drug monitoring amongst other things. This doesn't necessarily mean we won't do any of these ever. We can certainly do some essential reviews over the telephone, or send blood test forms and the like, if there is a clinical need, or if harm would result due to any further delay, but we will not do a review merely because it is overdue.
We do realise this may be difficult to understand, but given the situation, GPs will need to concentrate on managing increasing demand from acute on-the-day cases, and the surgery is highly likely going to become a very unhealthy place to be in the near future, and we do not want vulnerable patients, such as those with underlying conditions, or babies, sat in our waiting room and being at risk of infection. Therefore, please bear with us during this time.
Can we still drop off or collect forms from reception?
If you need to drop any forms off at the surgery we ask that you please use the black letterbox outside surgery which is also used for repeat medication requests. If you need to speak to us about the forms you are dropping off, please phone us rather than approaching the reception desk.
If the GP, nurse or other staff member has asked you to come to surgery to collect a form you may come to the desk for this but please ensure you stay well back from the desk behind the demarcated line and please keep your distance from other people in the queue or waiting area.
Won’t stopping face-to-face appointments just mean more people attend A+E?
People should only attend A+E with a genuine emergency or accident that cannot be managed safely at home. GP practices are not the only places having to change processes and stop routine work.
The whole of the NHS is gearing up to be able to manage this pandemic and for this reason we would strongly request everyone’s cooperation and consideration when using ANY NHS service to ensure that help can be given to those most in need. Please be responsible.
There aren’t any confirmed cases in Ripley, so why all this fuss? Surely we'll be OK?
No individual, village, town or city is immune to catching coronavirus. Being a new virus, the entire world's population had no previous immunity to it. At the time of writing there were 56 confirmed cases in the Midlands, with 4 cases in Derbyshire.
It is important to understand that the confirmed cases are only those who have had a positive swab and as it currently stands in the UK, only those people unwell enough to be in hospital are currently being swabbed. This means that many more people who are well enough to stay at home are not being tested but this doesn’t mean they don’t have coronavirus.
The government estimates that at present there are approximately 10,000 people in the UK with coronavirus and this number is rapidly escalating on a daily basis, so it is impossible to say that coronavirus isn't in Ripley. The chances are that it is already in Ripley and if it isn’t now, it definitely will be given time, hence the need for strict protective measures now.
How long will things be like this for?
No-one knows how long the current pandemic will be around for. Experts expect it to be at least several months as a minimum and probably into the summer and beyond. It is clear things will get significantly worse before things start to get better so we ask for your cooperation and consideration at this very challenging time for all. We will keep you informed as and when things change but for now the current changes to our practice are indefinite.
Where can I find out more?
Given the rapidly changing situation we all find ourselves in, any paper information leaflets you have may go out of date fairly quickly.
Therefore, if you have online access, we encourage you to check our website at ivy.gs/gp and also the electronic version of this document at ivy.gs/gpfaqs.
We may also send you texts now and again to keep you updated of any further changes to systems, in order that we may keep you safe and maintain the safety of our staff and clinicians. We actively encourage you to let us have your mobile number so that we can update our records and add you to the list to receive important text messages from us.
In time, our intention is to post additional advice for patients to manage their own conditions so that they know when they can self-care and when they need to contact us for further advice.
Written by Dr R Greer with additional content by Dr M Wong
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