why are GP services different

Why are GP practices working differently?

The NHS has given the following information and guidance about what to expect from your GP practice.

In order to keep staff and visitors safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, GP practices have had to adapt how they work. Like the rest of the health service, practices have made use of technology by introducing additional telephone and video appointments.

As the Covid-19 pandemic is still ongoing, practices are continuing to keep robust infection prevention measures in place, and telephone triage continues to be the first point of contact. However, face-to-face appointments are being offered and you can still visit in person should you need to.

If you need to you visit your GP practice, your temperature may be taken on arrival and you will also need to sanitise your hands. We would appreciate your co-operation in ensuring you observe social distancing while in your GP surgery. There is clear signage to help guide you and chairs in the waiting room are positioned apart from each other. You should wear a face covering (unless exempt) if you need to attend the surgery in person.

Please be mindful that at times, workforces may be affected by Covid-19, so teams may be smaller than usual. Whilst we appreciate that this can be a frustrating and unsettling time, please rest assured that practices are doing all they can to manage patient needs during a time of increased demand. Thank you for your patience.

Although it remains a challenging time for all NHS services, you should not put off getting the care you need. Your GP practice is open and is here for you and your family.

How you can access support

There are a number of ways to get the help you need in a way that suits your needs.

  • Go online to or call NHS 111
  • e-consult service on your practice’s website and get a reply within two working days. You can also request medication, sick notes and bloods results through this service
  • Call your practice to discuss the most appropriate appointment
  • Visit your GP practice website and complete a confidential online form
  • Download the NHS App to order repeat prescriptions, book appointments or check your symptoms
  • For life-threatening emergencies, please call 999 or go straight to A&E

For healthcare needs regarding children, urgent problems or for those patients who are unable to access our online services, we ask that you telephone your practice and your call will be answered as soon as possible.

What to expect when you contact your GP practice

Practice reception teams will conduct an initial assessment over the phone to make sure that those with the greatest need are seen first. The receptionist will ask you some questions so that they can get you the right care, in the right way, by the right professional. This may not necessarily be a GP.

They will consider:

  • Who is best to help you.
  • What type of appointment best suits your needs.
  • Whether help from another health service is more appropriate. For example, a pharmacy or urgent treatment centre.

Practice reception teams and are trained to know about the care and services available to you.

  • They will know whether self-referral is available for certain services.
  • They can make appointments for your care.
  • They can direct you to new services you may not be aware of.

They are skilled in assisting with triage and treat all information in confidence. All staff operate according to strict guidelines and work under clinical supervision. You can trust them to treat all information confidentially. They are a vital part of your practice team. Please treat them with respect. Any form of abuse towards staff will not be tolerated.

Who might you see at your GP practice?

GPs work as part of large multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) who all support the physical, psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, cultural and economic aspects of a person’s care. Although these will vary depending on your practice, some professionals you may see at your practice include:

  • GP: a highly skilled doctor who support patients throughout their lives.
  • GP registrar: a qualified doctor who is training to become a GP.
  • Locum/sessional doctor: a fully qualified GP who works at the practice on a temporary basis.
  • Practice nurse: a qualified and registered nurse who can help with health issues such as family planning, healthy living advice, blood pressure checks and dressings.
  • Nurse practitioners: a trained specialist nurse who has undertaken additional medical education in order to provide advanced nursing care and to prescribe medication. Nurse practitioners can provide treatment and advice for many problems for which you may have seen a doctor for in the past.
  • Healthcare assistant: supports the practice nurse with their daily work and helps to carry out tasks such as phlebotomy (drawing blood), blood pressure measurement and new patient checks.
  • Pharmacist: a highly qualified expert in medicines who can help carry out structured medication reviews for patients with ongoing health problems as well as a range of other treatments.
  • Mental health practitioner: a first point of contact to give patients guidance, advice and treatment for mental health symptoms such as low mood, anxiety and depression.
  • Health visitor: a registered nurse who has received training particularly related to babies, children and pregnant women.
  • Podiatrist: treats abnormal conditions of the feet and lower limbs.
  • Social prescribing link worker: connects people with local community activities and services that can help improve their health and wellbeing.
  • Practice managers: manage the business aspect of the practice.
  • Receptionists and administration staff: provide an important link for patients with the practice and are your initial contact point for general enquiries.
What else do GPs do?

GP services remain very busy, providing more appointments than ever before whilst also delivering the winter vaccination programme.

In addition to this, their work can include:

  • Reviewing and acting upon letters from hospital specialists and patients
  • Signing repeat prescriptions
  • Immunisations
  • Processing referrals
  • Medication reviews and pharmacy liaison
  • Learning Disability reviews
  • Mandatory training
  • Death certificates and coroner reports
  • End-of-life care
  • Statements of fitness for work
  • Home visiting
  • Care home ward rounds
  • Managing national and local targets
Other important information

Tell us your experiences of using GP services through the pandemic


A street in Wylam

Wylam drop-in: Talk to us about local services

We will be in Wylam on Saturday 24 February, at the Wylam Institute Coffee Morning. We’d like to talk to local people about health and social care services in the area and in particular, about the proposed changes to Riversdale GP Surgery and the relocation of services to the Oaklands Centre in Prudhoe.

Please come over and see us if you are there for a cuppa, or call in and have a chat if you are in the area.

If you can’t join us that day, please get in touch with any comments or feedback you’d like to share with us. We hope to plan more visits to local groups in the near future; please keep an eye on the website and our Facebook and Twitter pages for more details soon.