The Gillingham Medical Practice has made a public appeal to patients to help ease the burden on its GPs and other staff as the surgery says it faces ‘unexpected additional demand’.
In a letter to patients on its website, the practice says that the ‘usual winter pressures’, an increase in the number of Scarlet Fever cases and a ‘growing patient list size’ have combined to stack pressure on the town’s two surgeries.
It says: ‘As a result we are seeing demand for same-day appointments increase hugely, and we simply cannot provide enough urgent appointments to everyone without compromising the well-being of our GPs and clinicians.
‘This also creates high call volumes, and this means patient wait times when contacting us are unnecessarily long.’
The GMP highlights the work impact on its clinical staff. ‘There are safety mechanisms in place for varying professions relating to working hours and workload to protect people such as LGV drivers or pilots but this does not apply to GPs, and we need to ensure that we maintain a safe working environment for our medical team here at GMP,’ it states.
The practice then sets out what patients can do to help ease the pressures.
‘It has always been a challenge to get the correct balance of urgent and routine appointments in place and inevitably with high call volumes patient wait times when contacting us can be long which we understand is frustrating. Patients with very urgent medical need will always need to be seen quickly and we believe our patients would support our view it is vital we continue to offer this.’
In particular the practice says to patients:
If you are contacting the practice by telephone with routine queries, please contact us between Tuesday and Friday as we would like to keep our phone lines as free as possible on Mondays for our busiest day for urgent, same-day requests.
If you have access to the internet, please use our E-Consult service and email us with queries when possible.
Please cancel your appointment if you are unable to attend. Our “did not attend” rates have increased substantially lately.
Consider whether your need is truly “urgent” that day. Our patient services team will ask you about your condition so that they can signpost you to the correct clinician or service to ensure valuable urgent slots are kept free. Circumstances when alternative care providers such as pharmacies or 111 are shown on our Website and Facebook pages. Same day appointments are now for urgent medical issues only.
The vast majority of winter colds, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms are caused by viruses and don’t require an antibiotic prescription to clear.
Consider self-care where possible. Many routine illnesses clear themselves within days and our colleagues in the local pharmacies are able to offer a good service of advice and guidance on over-the-counter remedies.
It adds: ‘Please do be aware that it is not only our clinical staff who are feeling these pressures, but our reception, administration and management teams are also dealing with an unprecedented workload. We would ask that our staff are treated with respect as we are all committed to providing our patients with the highest level of care possible.’
The letter in full, a link to which has been texted to patients in the town, can be found here.
It is signed by practice manager Julie Tidbury and seven GP partners.