GP practices across Sussex have transformed the way they work to ensure local patients remain safe and get the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the safety of patients and practice staff a priority, new measures have been introduced through the creation of dedicated sites and areas within some practices, for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to be seen safely.
Those who feel they need GP appointments are being asked to contact their surgeries as normal, and not to arrive at the practice unless specifically being told to do so following an initial assessment by a suitably trained clinician.
Patients will be asked to give an accurate and detailed description of their symptoms and this will allow them to receive the most appropriate treatment.
Patients may not be seen at their usual surgery, and following their assessment will be directed to a specific site locally to best deal with their health needs in the safest way, with local GPs changing the way they provide care.
Any patient with COVID-19 symptoms will be given an appointment at a so called ‘hot site’ rather than their own practice. These are formed by a group of practices coming together and identifying a single dedicated site to offer patients from their practices face-to-face consultation following their assessment.
Some GPs will be seeing patients without symptoms and patients with COVID-19 symptoms who will be separated into special zones, so that they are kept isolated from other patients. This will be undertaken in a safe way for patients and staff, and includes the introduction of dedicated hot consultation rooms, with separate entrances and exits to maintain isolation.
Existing GP premises will also be dedicated for treatment of those without any COVID-19 symptoms or acute illness, to allow their management in a way that minimises risk of contact with any potentially ill patients. Patients will be screened for any fever or cough symptoms, so only those who are considered well can enter. The facility will be arranged to maintain social distancing measures and limit patient number on site at any one time.
Infection control measures set by government experts will be followed at all sites and residents can be reassured of their safety, even when they are close to any site seeing patients with COVID-19 symptoms. At a minimum a daily, a full deep clean will be completed at each hot site, including disinfection.
Wendy Carberry, Executive Director of Primary Care for NHS Sussex Commissioners, said: “We are urging those in need of a GP appointment to contact their practice first and not to attend until told to do so – which may not be at a patient’s usual surgery.
“General Practice services are under the same pressure that is being reported around the country due to COVID-19. Our top priority is to keep our patients and practice staff safe, while we ensure people can access the care they need in the most appropriate setting.
“Keeping GPs and their staff healthy is crucial so they can continue to care for everybody, and Sussex CCGs have been working together with practices to reduce attendance at practices by supporting and enabling the use of telephone appointments and video consultations where possible. Our plans around this are in-line with regional and national guidance, and have developed this new approach in collaboration with local GPs.”
GP Practices are making alternative arrangements to ensure these patients from the deaf community, people with learning disabilities, those whose first language is not English, and anyone without access to a telephone can access appointments.