Few, one hopes, would argue that Rye is lucky to have two doctors surgeries to look after the population of the town. As with every part of the NHS, the last 18 months have been challenging and some of the arrangements that we have all become used to when needing the help of our doctors and their staff have had to change as a result. Inevitably, this has led to concern among some patients.
Most have been philosophical and accepted the situation as one not of their surgery’s own making, others have been mildly irritated as we have seen in occasional comments in Rye News and elsewhere and just a few, thinking only of themselves, have become unreasonably aggressive and abusive. There is now a national campaign by the NHS to combat this.
Rye News has contacted the Rye Medical Centre asked them how they were coping in the current situation and the effects, from their point of view, on their patients. This is their detailed reply:
“There was a lot of pressure with appointments prior to the pandemic, this was in part due to a difficulty in recruiting GPs, which is why we employed our highly experienced paramedics, to help us out.
“During the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, in order to protect both our patients and our staff, like all GP practices across the country, we had to adhere to the appropriate infection control measures and adjust and make changes to the way that we provided our care. We did remain open throughout lockdown, providing care for our patients with the introduction of online consulting and by increasing our telephone appointments. We also continued to offer face to face consultations for those patients who were assessed to need this with nurses, GPs and paramedics.
“This was in accordance with NHS England guidance. As levels of Covid-19 continue to remain high and demands for appointments have increased we are unable to return to the same appointment system that we had prior to lockdown. The demand for appointments has increased for many different reasons, including delays in secondary care, increased mental health issues as a result of lockdown and patients’ delay to accessing health care during lockdown, now presenting. The national NHS GP appointments data shows there were nearly one million more appointments in July 2021 than pre-pandemic levels (July 2019).
“To optimise patient care we have to continue to be as effective and efficient and as safe as we can be. In order to cope with this extra demand we are looking at taking on an additional experienced paramedic, to try and ease further the waiting time for appointments at the surgery.
“Regarding getting appointments, chronic conditions, routine reviews and less urgent conditions can all be booked in advance; these can be face-to-face, telephone, or online consultations. We continue to offer a higher number of telephone consultations and have received feedback from patients that this is more convenient for those who work or have childcare issues and those who are more vulnerable and do not wish to come into the surgery.
“Due to a high demand for “book on the day” / urgent appointments, we have a triage system in place to prioritise those patients most in need. Anyone specifically requesting a face-to-face at triage, will be seen. Most are helped by our paramedics, some will receive a telephone consult with a GP, that day. Anyone requiring a face-to-face review will be booked in with either a nurse, paramedic or a doctor, either the same day or at a time that is assessed as appropriate, depending on the needs of the patient. The triage system gives the practice faster management options on the day a patient requests help.
“As a practice during the pandemic we have also had to provide staff for the Covid assessment clinic in Hastings, the Covid vaccination program and now the booster doses and the flu vaccine. At times this included up to half of our staff, again reducing our capacity to offer appointments. We also run dermatology and microsuction for the area and this will increase our workload and reduce our availability, which can sadly increase the waiting time for appointments.
“As we you will understand all the staff at Rye Medical Centre have been working incredibly hard over the past 18 months. Although the practice may not seem as busy, as it used to, due to fewer people in reception, we hope we have been able to explain that we are and have been as busy as we ever were. With this in mind we hope that your readers will understand that our staff can only work with the resources available to them, so please continue to treat them with respect and courtesy, for what at times can be a very difficult job, when all we want to do is help and care for our community.”
Image Credits: Richard Byham , Sussex CCGs .