During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nottinghamshire, the public helped to keep key services available for those who needed it most by choosing not to go to ED and instead, calling their GP or 111 for advice.
At the peak of the pandemic admissions to A&E were reduced by more than a half as the number of people turning up at Nottinghamshire University Hospitals and Sherwood Forest Hospitals fell from 8,290 admissions during the week of 2-8 March to just 3,688 in the week of 30 March – 5 April.
Now, a number of changes have been made to healthcare settings across the county in order to keep the system available to Covid-19 patients and reduce the spread of the illness.
Dr James Hopkinson, the joint clinical leader at NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCG, said: “Health settings have had to adapt to the pandemic and we have seen a large shift in how patients are using our services.
“At the height of the pandemic, fewer people were turning up at A&E which, in turn, helped hospitals deal with the pressures and patients who needed our help were able to be seen quickly. There are alternative options to A&E such as the Urgent Care Centre on London Road or using NHS 111 online but it is important to highlight that should you need urgent medical attention then you do still need to go to hospital.
“Our GPs have had to adapt and change the way they operate and are currently experiencing a return to the expected number of patient contacts, and managing them via a variety of different methods. We are now choosing which patients we should see in person based on individual health needs. In certain cases, we can carry out the same level of service over the phone or by video call and we think it is really important that this continues. It will mean our services don’t become overwhelmed and we can carry on caring for patients in a safe way.”
The new changes to healthcare settings mean seeing your GP will be different to normal and you may have to prepare before you go into your local medical centre.
Doctor Manik Arora, who is a GP at Rivergreen Medical Centre in Clifton, has spoken about the changes patients can expect when they next visit their GP.
“The first difference patients will see is in booking appointments. Every morning we have a rush of patients ringing up to talk to the GP. We have moved from seeing people to trying to solve problems either on the phone or by video.
“In order to make sure patients receive the right service, our receptionists will ask patients about their queries in order to signpost them to the right advice. The patients will then be told whether they need a call back from a doctor or to come into the practice. We need to have this system in place to make sure people don’t come into the medical centre unnecessarily.”
If a patient does have to go into their local medical practice for an appointment, they will see that a number of changes have been made.
· Barriers or floor markings around reception to make sure patients remain two metres away from staff and each other.
· No leaflets, self-service machines or any magazines to read in the waiting room.
· Plastic screens around the reception desk.
· Taped off chairs in the waiting room, or reduced chairs, to ensure social distancing is adhered to.
· Staff wearing PPE during appointments.
· Hand sanitizer available and patients encouraged to wash hands more frequently.
· Patients should wear a face mask to appointments.
Dr Arora, who has been a GP in Clifton for 12 years, added: “We are only seeing patients when examining them in person makes a difference and it is important for the decision-making process.
“Blood Tests, ECGs and vaccinations are all still going ahead but we are taking more precautions with our clothing.
“For instance, I now wear full PPE and not my normal clothes and we thoroughly wipe down and clean the consultation rooms between appointments.”
Rivergreen Medical Practice has seen a drop in patients attending appointments in person in recent months which is a positive step in helping to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. However, if you have a symptom that you are worried about, you must still contact your GP practice as you usually would.
If you need to contact a GP, do not go into the surgery in person. Instead, visit the GP surgery’s website, use an online service, or call your GP. You will then be given advice about what to do next.
Read our FAQs to find out everything you need to know here.