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GP

Share your experiences of GP referrals

Have you been referred by your GP practice to a specialist for tests, diagnosis or treatment? Or have you expected or requested a referral but didn’t get one? We’d like to hear about your experiences to help the NHS understand what is working and what could be better.

The survey will only take a few minutes of your time and any information you share will be anonymised.

What is a GP referral?

It’s when a GP or other medical professional at a GP practice sends you to a specialist at a hospital or community clinic for further tests, diagnosis or treatment. Your GP could make a referral for many reasons, such as a hip replacement, MRI scan, physio, mental health services, endoscopy and more. A referral can happen during a phone or face-to-face appointment.

Tell us about your experiences

How to contact your GP and get the help you need

As a result of Covid-19, the way patients access GP practices has had to change. Whilst this can be frustrating and unsettling at times, it is necessary to make sure that all staff and patients are kept safe. The following guidance from Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group will help you to contact your GP and get the help you need.

What to do if you need to contact your GP

If your needs are non-urgent, adult patients can contact their GP via the e-consult service on your practice’s website in the first instance. You can contact your GP practice and get a reply within two working days. You can also request medication, sick notes and bloods results through this service.

For health care needs regarding children, urgent problems or for those patients who are unable to access online services, you should telephone your practice and your call will be answered as soon as possible. The practice may ask for a brief summary of the problem to help direct you to the most appropriate member of the GP practice team.

Please note that your consultation may not need to be with a GP. It may be that the care/advice you need can be given by another member of the practice team.

Where possible and appropriate, consultations will be conducted either online or via telephone. If a face-to-face appointment is required and you need to visit the practice, please wear a face covering (unless exempt) when you arrive.

Face-to-face appointments

Your temperature may be taken on arrival and you will also need to sanitise your hands. Please be aware that the surgery doors may be locked and you will need to be granted access by a member of the practice team. There will be less people in the waiting room than usual and chairs are positioned apart from each other to ensure you can observe social distancing.

Please ensure you observe social distancing while in your GP surgery. There is clear signage to guide you. You are asked to wear a face covering if you need to attend the surgery in person.

If you have any coronavirus symptoms including a high temperature, new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste please DO NOT visit a GP surgery. You must stay at home along with anyone you live with and anyone in your support bubble. Only leave home to get a test. Self-isolate until you get your result.

Urgent medical needs

Please don’t delay in contacting your GP practice if you have an urgent medical need. The NHS is here for you and your family.
You can also get urgent medical advice online from 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111. For life-threatening emergencies please call 999 or go straight to A&E.

What practices are doing to ensure services can be resumed as soon as possible

Practices are working extremely hard to manage the backlog of work and patient appointments as a result of Covid-19. Please be assured that they will be doing all they can to arrange appointments and services for you as quickly as possible.

Please also be mindful that, at times, workforces may be affected by Covid-19, so teams may be smaller than usual. They are, however, all doing their very best to look after you. We ask you to be patient, polite and respectful. No type of abuse will be tolerated by any member of staff.

All the necessary steps are being taken to protect you and staff from coronavirus. Robust measures are in place to ensure that practices are safe.

When to self-isolate

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Please do not visit your GP surgery. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

If you are not experiencing symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, you also must self-isolate for at least 10 days, starting from the day the test was taken.

If you develop symptoms during this isolation period, you must restart your 10-day isolation from the day you develop symptoms. If you live with others, all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the household became ill or if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.

High risk groups

If you are in a high risk group, you can still go out provided you are well but you should:

  • Maintain two metres distance from people outside your support bubble
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Wear a face covering in shops and other enclosed spaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wash your hands carefully and more frequently than normal
  • Use sanitiser outside your home (where available) especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces.

 

NHS asks ‘do your bit’

Don’t just turn up to A&E – think pharmacy, 111 and GP first

Public asked to #doyourbit to protect the NHS by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies.

Health leaders across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.

The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid19.

Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent. Action is needed now to protect patients and staff alike from now and into the future.

Bas Sen, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Regional Clinical Advisor for the North East and Yorkshire said: “We want to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment when they urgently need it. We are now putting in place measures to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices. This will help ensure their safety, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the most appropriate place.

“Specifically, if their need is not life threatening, we would advise patients to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.

“Advice will be provided based on individual issues and solutions will range from self-care through to an appointment with a GP, or being directed to go to a pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre.

“Those that do turn up to either an A&E department or an Urgent Treatment Centre, will be assessed clinically by a member of our team and if suitable, will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs.”

The campaign is supporting a pilot scheme which commenced on 3 August by the NHS in the North Integrated Partnership (ICP) area (which covers Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) before being rolled out across the region in September 2020.

Bas continued: “Too many people who come to A&E can be dealt with quicker by an alternative service such as their pharmacist, GP or 111. In light of COVID-19, and with winter ahead, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”

“Because of the need to socially distance our hospitals have reduced space in waiting rooms and with around 50-70 per cent of attendances at A&E made up of patients who walk-in we must keep people safe – especially our most vulnerable and shielded patients.

“By thinking of alternative services such as pharmacist, GP and 111 first people can do their bit to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies. At the same time this also means they will get the right treatment in a timely manner, in the most appropriate place for them too.

“So please don’t turn up or walk in to A&E or urgent care services without seeking advice from either a 111, GP or pharmacist, first – unless your condition is life threatening.

“Please remember that NHS 111 can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance should your condition be serious or life-threatening.”

In addition, we are asking people to act responsibly and consider carefully the impact drug use and alcohol has on people behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.

Clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our health and care staff across the North East and North Cumbria. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.”

Virtual NHS consultations

recent survey for the British Medical Association showed that 95% of GPs are now offering remote consultations and 88% want to see greater use of them continue in the future.

Whilst people previously told us that they welcome the idea of the NHS making better use of new technology to help make care more convenient, people’s experiences of telephone, video, and email consultations to date have been more mixed.

For some, they are working well, and many previously sceptical individuals have been converted following a positive experience. For others, these types of appointments have introduced new barriers to care.

So how can we make sure that this revolution in the way care is delivered works for everyone?

What makes a virtual appointment good?

Last week Healthwatch England published the findings of some rapid research conducted in partnership with Traverse and National Voices. Involving people who have had a virtual consultation during the pandemic, this report provides useful insights for NHS services and individual clinicians.

Key findings and recommendations

Arranging a virtual consultation:

  • Feeling safe and comfortable – It’s important for people to feel safe, comfortable and that they have a confidential space in which to talk about their medical concerns. Most of those we spoke to hadn’t received any information in advance about how the appointment would work or what they could do to help. It would be useful for patients to be alerted to this fact beforehand so that they can prepare for their appointment.
  • Making the benefits known – Secondly, to realise the benefits of people not having to travel to appointments, patients need a reasonable time window for their appointment. Where people are not given this, it leads to increased frustration, with missed calls or unexpected delays creating anxiety.
  • Getting the format right
    Most of those we spoke to had telephone consultations, but a significant number felt that video would have been better.

We heard examples where people’s level of digital literacy had not been assessed before the appointment. There were also examples discussed where people felt remote consultations would never be appropriate, such as delivering bad news following a diagnosis.

During the appointment itself

Giving people the time they need

Whichever form of remote consultation is used, people were clear that it must not mean a compromise on the quality of the interaction. Appointments must not feel rushed, patients need to feel listened to and clinicians must have all the information they need to hand.

“I didn’t know what to expect. The physio created space to ask about how I was doing. I felt heard and was able to ask questions. It was refreshing. A normal physio session would be in a crowded room, five minutes instructions, you practice the movement, they pop back after seeing other people and ask you how you are getting on, it’s rushed. I see about 15-20 health professionals a year and this is the most person-centred session I have had.”

– Maria, physiotherapy patient.

Test, learn and improve

Seek feedback

As with any significant change it is important to seek feedback and to learn from what works and what needs improvement. Yet most participants in our research reported that they weren’t asked for feedback about their remote consultation experience.When we asked them for suggestions, they identified many ways in which remote consultations could be made better. For example, enabling sessions to be recorded and played back later so people can confirm they have understood, or introducing closed captioning to help those with hearing loss.

Overall, one of the biggest learning points was around quality. While some people in the health and care system may see remote consultations as a way of delivering care more efficiently, it is clear that any impact on quality will likely see a significant drop-off in people willing to access care in this way.

Getting the most out of the virtual health and care experience

Our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

The plan below sets out our plans for the next three years, as identified by the Healthwatch Northumberland Board.

We have three strategic aims which are the themes for our work over the lifetime of the strategy. Our work each year will be identified as meeting one or more of the aims.

Health: with the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of health service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in health service in Northumberland.

Social Care: With the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in social care services in Northumberland.

Communication and Engagement: the people, service providers, commissioners and key stakeholders in Northumberland know, trust and are involved with Healthwatch Northumberland.

 

Read our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

Annual Report 2019/20

Our Annual Report for the financial year 2019-20 is out now. Have a look to see what we’ve been up to, what people told us about their experiences of NHS, health and social care and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Report 2019/20.

Events

Laburnum Surgery closure – online forum

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has made the decision to close Laburnum GP Surgery in Ashington.

The CCG’s primary care commissioning committee made the decision, last week, to end the contract of Laburnum Medical Group following inspections carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and ongoing investigations carried out by the CCG, which identified issues with the quality of care provided.

The practice, which provides healthcare for 2400 patients from Ashington and the surrounding areas, including Wansbeck, Morpeth, Newbiggin and Bedlington, will close by the end of July.

Patients at the practice have been written to and allocated another GP at a nearby surgery.

We are holding an online forum for patients to discuss any concerns they have about the closure of the surgery and their ongoing healthcare.

To register please email: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk or call: 03332 408468.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom. If you would like help setting up Zoom on your device please ask.

 

Read more about the closure of Laburnum Surgery

Find out more about our other online forums

 

Morpeth Market Drop-in

We will be market stall holders on Wednesday 21 February, when we visit Morpeth Market to talk to local people about their health and social care experiences. Good or not so good, praise or concern, we want to hear your thoughts. You can also complete our annual survey which will help us discover what matters to you about the care you and your family receive from GPs, hospitals, dentists, mental health services, pharmacists, care homes and any other service you may use or need to use in the future. Pick up one of our pens, lip balms or stress balls if you’re quick!

 

Rothbury Drop-in Session

Following on from the changes to primary care services in Harbottle, the recent relocation of GP services in Rothbury and the closure of a dental practice, we are keen to hear how these arrangements are working for local people. Please get in touch to share your experiences of health provision in the area, either positive or negative.

The Healthwatch Northumberland team will be in the Cheviot Room at The Jubilee Hall in Rothbury on Friday 26 January from 12.00pm – 1.00pm, to talk to local people about their views and experiences and we invite you to call in for a chat if you use health services in the area. This is a drop-in session so no need to book, just call in any time between 12.00pm and 1.00pm.

Don’t worry if you can’t make it that day. Give us a call on 03332 408468 or leave feedback via the website.