The pandemic saw GP practices change how they operated overnight. Surgeries across East Devon brought in measures quickly to limit exposure to the virus and keep patients and staff safe.
Telephone, video, and online technology was used to screen patients remotely ahead of an appointment and in many cases to carry out consultations during the pandemic. Face-to-face appointments were offered only if deemed clinically appropriate.
As we get back to normal in our daily lives, it is unsurprising that recently I’ve received a number of emails from constituents frustrated at not being able to see their GP in person.
I appreciate the frustration felt by some when trying to secure a face-to-face appointment and I have voiced concerns to our GPs about this. I believe everybody should have the right to a face-to-face appointment with their doctor. But there is a backlog of appointments for surgeries to deal with. Local GPs tell me they have seen a 14% increase on pre-pandemic levels of contact with surgeries so have chosen to continue with a hybrid way of working to help more patients each day.
To assist surgeries with their backlogs at this time, we should in the first instance consider whether a telephone call or online consultation would be more appropriate.
There will be those who might not possess the technology or feel comfortable doing something online or who cannot properly show or explain to a doctor their medical complaint during a telephone call and for those a trip to the surgery will be a necessity.
We should remember that GP teams in Devon have also been responsible for delivering over 1.8 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to the local population. They are now of course continuing this vital work by administering booster jabs to the most at risk as part of our world-class vaccination programme.
Booster vaccinations are being rolled out to care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged over 50, those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid-19, adult carers, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
This column first appeared in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 13th October and in the Sidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald later in the week.