People in Devon are being reassured they will still get a face-to-face appointment at their local practice if their GP thinks they need one, and that they should only go to hospital A&E departments in an emergency.
With the danger of COVID-19 still very much present in Devon, GP practices have measures in place to protect patients and staff by reducing unnecessary contact and travel. They are reminding local people to follow these simple six steps when contacting their surgery:
1. If you need to seek advice from your GP practice, contact them online via their website, or by phone
2. To protect you and your practice’s staff, you are likely to be offered a telephone, online or video consultation in the first instance
3. Your GP will give you a face-to-face appointment at the practice if they identify that you need one
4. If you do need to visit for an appointment, your practice will tell you everything you need to know when you come and what measures are in place to keep you safe
5. If your GP thinks you need to be referred to hospital for review or treatment, they will arrange this
6. If you are given an appointment at the practice or the hospital, it’s really important to attend
Dr Simon Kerr, a GP at Coleridge Medical Centre, Ottery St Mary, and a member of Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body, said: “In most cases when a patient contacts their local practice, doctors will talk to them by phone, video or online in the first instance.
“This may be different from what people are used to, but often enables a faster response and is vitally important as a measure to help keep patients and practice staff safe.
“If your doctor needs to see you in person, they will do – face-to-face appointments are still happening across Devon where they are needed.
“Many of our patients have really appreciated phone and online consultations, praising them for being more convenient and reducing the need to travel.”
Meanwhile, consultants in Devon’s hospitals say waiting times at Accident and Emergency departments are on the up and are reminding people only to go to A&E if they have been referred there by another part of the NHS or have a genuine emergency.
Measures such as social distancing, designated areas for people with and without COVID-19 and more cleaning are in place at local hospitals to keep patients and staff safe, but in many cases they mean fewer people can be seen, adding to the pressure on local services.
Dr Rob Dyer, Consultant at Torbay Hospital and lead Medical Director for Devon, said: “We need people to choose the right service for their needs.
“People should continue to call 999 and attend the A&E Departments if they believe they have a serious illness, for example if they or a loved one see the signs of stroke, severe chest pain or worsening asthma. And if you have been invited to the hospital for an appointment, it’s important that you go.
“We’re seeing waiting times increase at A&E departments and many people who are attending could get the help they need from other local services.”
The NHS in Devon is reminding local people and visitors how to access local services:
– Self-care is the best choice to treat minor illnesses and injuries like a coughs, colds, grazes, small cuts or a sore throat. They can be treated at home or in holiday accommodation with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest.
– Pharmacists advise and treat illnesses like hay fever, diarrhoea, earache, painful cough, sticky eye, teething and rashes – and by visiting your pharmacy you can avoid an unnecessary trip to your GP or A&E and save time. Find your nearest pharmacy here: www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy/
– Minor Injury Services – like Minor Injury Units and Walk-in Centres, always check local arrangements.
– NHS website – www.nhs.uk – always available for advice and guidance.
– NHS 111 click on 111.nhs.uk (for people aged over five only) or call 111 if you’re feeling unwell, unsure or if you need health advice and guidance in non-life-threatening emergencies – available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
– GP practices – contact them online via their website, or by phone (as above)
-n Urgent Mental Health Support – If you are an adult and need urgent mental health support, call: Devon and Torbay 0300 555 5000; Plymouth 01752 434922 (24 hours), Children and young people under 18, parents and carers in Plymouth can call 01752 435122
– A&E/999 are best used in an emergency for serious or life-threatening conditions like severe bleeding, breathing difficulties, severe chest pain and loss of consciousness. A&E departments are not an alternative to a GP appointment.
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