Wigan health chief asks for patience as GP surgeries face unprecedented demand

A Wigan GP has asked for patience and support as health centres face their busiest ever period.
Dr Tim DaltonDr Tim Dalton
Dr Tim Dalton

The number of people contacting surgeries is rising as the winter months approach and more people get out and about after the removal of coronavirus restrictions.

It has led to Dr Tim Dalton, a GP and chairman of NHS Wigan CCG, to ask people to be patient as NHS staff try to cope with the high demand.

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He said: “GP practices are seeing a rise in demand which is higher than we would expect to see at this time of year. We are working hard to treat patients as soon as we can and we ask for patience while we do that.

“Some practices will use a telephone first system to help manage the rising number of contacts or asking patients to use their online service if possible, to ensure everyone gets the most appropriate support for their needs.

“As well as GPs and practice nurses, there are other health professionals like pharmacists, physiotherapists and social prescribers working to support our patients. Our receptionists’ role is to assign the right health professional for you, so they may need to ask some questions about your condition. They will treat your information in the same strict confidence that medical professionals do.

“This way of working is essential to helping us continue to provide our service, including seeing patients whose condition means they need to be seen by a GP.

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“We’d like to thank all our patients for working with us throughout the pandemic and for still wearing face coverings, following social distancing rules and for their continued kindness and support when using our services.”

While legal restrictions such as social distancing and wearing a face covering ended in July in many places, they are still required in healthcare settings, including general practice, dental surgeries and hospitals.

Dr Tracey Vell, GP and lead for primary care at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Additional safety measures, like wearing face coverings and limiting the number of people in practices at a time, are still in place for the NHS. This is to ensure that we can still provide effective services and keep our most vulnerable patients and staff protected.

“Being able to offer a mixture of email, telephone and face-to-face appointments allows your practice to assess and respond to more of your requests more quickly and this applies at all times, including during emergencies like pandemics.

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“Despite receiving some really positive feedback in the recent national GP patient survey, we know not everyone is always receiving the best service at the moment and we have to be honest about that. The demand on our services is unprecedented and sometimes we cannot meet the demands with the current workforce and aftermath of the pandemic.

“If your GP feels that a face-to-face appointment is required, this will be arranged and patients will be seen by a GP or another appropriate member of clinical staff, which has been the case right the way through the pandemic.

“Most common conditions can be assessed and diagnosed by your GP via telephone or video consultation.”

When trying to contact practices, it may take longer to get through on the phone than people are used to.

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If it is not urgent, they are asked to consider other options like online consultations. This is where an online form can be completed about a health issue using a mobile phone or computer.

Once the questions on the form have been answered, a text or email will be sent confirming the online consultation is complete and advice is given about what to do next. If the GP surgery needs to get in touch, they may suggest a phone or video consultation.

The latest national GP patient survey, which took place between January and March, showed 83.3 per cent of Greater Manchester residents said their overall experience of their GP was good and in some areas was above the national average.

Around 90.7 per cent said they were satisfied with the appointment offered to them and over 95.3 per cent said they had confidence and trust in their healthcare professional.

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