As England goes into a second national lockdown, the Royal College of GPs is making it clear to patients that general practice is open and that general practice services are available, albeit being delivered differently than usual in many cases
The RCGP is urging patients, if sick, to continue accessing general practice – and other NHS – care throughout the second national lockdown, brought into effect today until 2 December.
The College has produced downloadable resources for GP practices across the UK to support GPs to get the message out to patients about general practice being open, and how they can expect care to be delivered. These can be shared on practice websites, social media or any other channels.
Whilst GPs have been busy throughout the pandemic providing regular services as well as managing Covid-19 hot hubs and supporting other NHS services, such as 111, practices saw a decline in patients accessing routine care during the peak of the first lockdown. Although consultation numbers are now exceeding pre-lockdown levels, GPs and their teams want to encourage people to seek medical care if they are ill, or if they have any symptoms that could be signs of serious illness, such as cancer.
General practice services have been available throughout the pandemic, which has seen GPs and their teams transform the way they deliver services, in ways that pre-pandemic would have been seen as largely unachievable in the timeframe. Most GP services are currently being delivered remotely, by phone or video, to manage infection control and maximise the safety of patients, GPs and practice staff in surgeries. However, when face to face consultations are necessary they are being delivered, and more than 400,000 face to face consultations are now being delivered every day.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice has remained open throughout the pandemic – and now we’re in a second lockdown, that isn’t changing. GPs have worked incredibly hard, swiftly transforming their services to continue delivering safe and accessible care to patients in the most challenging of circumstances.
“We do not want slogans such as ‘stay at home’ or ‘protect the NHS’ to deter patients from seeking medical care, if they need it. We do not want to see patients hesitant to access our services, and in doing so potentially missing out on vital care.
“Lockdown is going to be tough for people. It will potentially have an impact on their physical and mental health. We hope our resources help GPs get the message out to patients that general practice services are available, albeit delivered differently than usual. GPs and our teams are currently delivering more consultations than we were before the pandemic, and delivering the largest and most complicated flu vaccination programme ever – but if patients are sick, or if they have potential signs of serious illness such as cancer, they should contact their GP or NHS 111, or in an emergency call 999.”