HEALTH chiefs are urging patients to ‘play their part’ to protect themselves and their families as local GP services face unprecedented pressures due to Covid absence rates.
Doctors in County Durham have raised concerns over increased staff shortages facing general practice with many forced to isolate due to Covid-19 Omicron infections.
11 practices have reported raised escalation levels but are still able to remain open for patients. It may take longer to answer calls and offer appointments and reception staff are under considerable pressure across the county.
Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer, NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG) said: “We are extremely concerned with the impact on staffing in our GP practices, with staff off work after testing positive for Covid-19 or having to isolate due to being a contact of a positive Covid case.
“The next few weeks will be very challenging for general practice.
“GPs and practice staff have worked relentlessly over the past year and continue to do so to meet the needs of patients, but we must all now take further steps to help protect ourselves, our families and our healthcare staff – we can all play our part!”
To help ease pressure on primary care, patients are being asked to consider alternative ways to seek healthcare treatment when they need it.
Local NHS Community pharmacists are clinically skilled healthcare professionals who can deal with minor conditions and help free up GP time for more serious medical concerns.
County Durham Urgent Treatment Centres (UTCs) in Peterlee, Durham, Shotley Bridge & Bishop Auckland are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year for minor injuries or illnesses that require urgent attention but are not life threatening including:
- Strains and sprains
- Suspected broken limbs
- Minor head injuries
- Cuts and grazes
- Bites and stings
- Minor scalds and burns
- Ear and throat infections
- Skin infections and rashes
- Eye problems
- Coughs and colds
- Feverish illness
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
Appointments can be booked through NHS 111 111.nhs.uk
If people need to speak to a GP and phone lines are busy, patients are being asked to access help or advice by completing an e-Consult confidential online form, through the practice website or NHS app.
Following the online consultation, practice staff will advise if a video, phone or e-mail consultation is required and will contact patients to arrange an appointment if needed. All online requests receive a response within two working days.
e-Consult also allows patients to access information on health conditions, self-care and local pharmacy services.
Patients can also register for an online account with their practice to order medication, view their patient record or see test results using the practice website or NHS app.
“All our staff are working hard to ensure services return to normal as soon as possible,” added Dr Findlay.
“We really do appreciate our patients’ patience and co-operation during this time.”
Anyone unsure which health service is best for their needs can contact NHS 111 online 24/7 https://111.nhs.uk/