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

Understanding Patient Participation Groups

We commissioned research to help us understand how the Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) associated with the 41 GP practices in Northumberland currently work. We wanted to understand their aspirations and challenges and the relationship they want to have individually and collectively not only with Healthwatch Northumberland but also the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Primary Care Networks (PCN) and local community and voluntary groups. We also wanted to know how we and PPGs can most effectively communicate and exchange information and views and how this can be used for the benefit of patients, their families and carers.

The research has identified several key areas where further discussion or action would help PPGs develop in a way that is appropriate for them. The recommendations at the end of the report form an agenda for those discussions and provide Healthwatch Northumberland with a series of actions we want to consider.

The research shows that PPGs want to engage with patients, with Healthwatch Northumberland and with the wider health community but for some this is difficult. PPGs see real benefits in engaging more widely and collaborating with others to improve the patient experience. Some PPGs would like to network and engage on a countywide basis whilst others would prefer to do this at a PCN level. This desire to collaborate must be nurtured by Healthwatch Northuberland and must be extended to include the CCG and the GP practices it commissions. There is a real opportunity for a partnership approach to help support PPGs and improve the patient experience and we will play a pivotal role in this.

The research also highlights several areas of challenge for PPGs. The key areas are:

• Recruitment and retention of members who are representative of the Practice Population and who are able to understand and represent the patient perspective and work with the practice to create improvements to service

• Engagement with patients and with the Practice to gather feedback in a meaningful way and to collaborate with the practice to use this feedback to best effect

• Time and to a lesser extent cost – to travel to meetings, to attend meetings at a time that is suitable and to contribute effectively both within and outside the meetings

51% of the PPGs in Northumberland completed the survey that formed the basis of the research and a further 4 provided information during telephone calls meaning HWN heard from 61% of the PPG population during the research period. One of the challenges for HWN is how it engages with the whole PPG community, particularly those who opted not to engage this time.

As PCNs develop, the role of the PPG will become more pivotal because these networks will need to understand the patient perspective and identify how they can develop services that, among other things, improve population health. Healthwatch Northumberland, along with the CCG, will have a role to play supporting both the PCNs and the PPGs. To be most effective we will need to ensure robust relationships with the CCG, PCNs and PPGs.

The report provides recommendations that are set in the context of the aims of the research and focus on the aspirations and challenges faced by PPGs and the way in which Healthwatch Northumberland can best engage to help address these.

Understanding Patient Participation Groups Report.

Share your views on NHS Interpreting Services

The interpreting arrangements in primary care from NHS England end on 30 September 2020 and it is asking for your views on what has worked well and what could be improved. Your feedback will be used to shape how these services will be delivered in the future.

There are two sessions. One for patients who have used a spoken word interpreter at their GP, dentist, pharmacy or optometrist since April 2018 and one is for people who have used a non-spoken word interpreter at one or more of these services. The sessions are also for those who haven’t used an interpreter in this time but may need to use one at an appointment in the future.


Patient Listening Event – Spoken Word Interpretation

Wednesday 25 March: 6.00pm – 9.00pm

Cathedral Suite, Emirates Riverside Stadium, County Durham DH3 3QR


Patient Listening Event – Non-spoken Word Interpretation

Thursday 26 March: 6.00pm – 9.00pm

Cathedral Suite, Emirates Riverside Stadium, County Durham DH3 3QR



What will the format of the session be?

An NHS England representative will give a short presentation on the planned changes to interpreting services in 2020/21. Attendees will then be asked to work in small groups to discuss and note down their personal experiences of interpreting services in primary care. Feedback will be used to answer the questions:

What has worked well?

What needs to be improved?

What are the things which matter to you most when using interpreters?


Tea, coffee and snacks will be provided. There are 100 places on each session and you can book on by emailing: with your name, the area you live and the number of places you would like to reserve (up to six). Please use either ‘patient listening event – spoken’ or ‘patient listening event – non-spoken’ as the email subject.


View plans for Berwick Hospital

The public are being given the opportunity to view plans for the newhospital in Berwick on Wednesday 11 March. Northumbria Healthcare released this message this week:


Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is sharing its proposals at drop-in sessions, hosted by Berwick Regeneration Commission, at the Town Hall from 11.00am – 4.00pm and 5.00pm – 7.00pm.

Staff from the trust will be on hand to showcase the architect’s proposals for the development on the existing Berwick Infirmary site before a formal planning application is submitted to Northumberland County Council. Teams at the infirmary have had a major input into the design of the new state-of-the-art hospital to ensure that it supports an improved experience for patients and is fit for the future.

The new hospital will re-provide all the existing services and embrace the latest technology. It is planned that Well Close Medical Group will be part of the development which will pave the way for further integration between primary care (the GPs) and secondary care (the hospital). Patients from the practice are also welcome to come along to the sessions to give their thoughts on the proposed relocation of the surgery.

Marion Dickson, executive director for nursing, midwifery, allied health professionals, surgery and community services at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, is leading the Berwick redevelopment project. She said “We know that local people are very keen to see our plans for the new Berwick hospital and we are pleased to be able to confirm the date for our drop-in sessions. We hope that as many people as possible, including patients of Well Close Medical Group, will take this opportunity to come along and have a first glimpse of the proposals before we submit our planning application.”

Preparations are already well underway for the new build on the northern end of the existing infirmary site with departments moved to elsewhere on the site, and the car park next to the maternity unit is being resurfaced over the next two weeks. Pedestrian access to the maternity and physiotherapy departments will be maintained via the High Greens Road entrance however parking at the main hospital is available as usual during this work.

In the meantime, the trust is reminding patients with an appointment at Berwick Infirmary to attend as normal, however, report to the reception within medical records to be redirected to their waiting area.

Subject to planning approval, construction will start on site in the autumn with an expected completion date for the new hospital of spring 2022.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick, said “The new hospital in Berwick will be a massive boost to the town and surrounding areas and is hugely anticipated by the local community. I’m delighted that the public is being given the opportunity next month to see the plans and would encourage residents to go along to the drop-in sessions at the Town Hall.”

Riverside Surgery

Community urged to have say on proposed Riversdale Surgery relocation

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Primary Care Commissioning Committee met in public on 12 February, to discuss the proposed relocation of Riversdale Surgery in Wylam to its branch site in the Oakland’s Health Centre in Prudhoe.

The practice submitted a formal application to the committee who heard the details of the proposal. The move would allow the practice to operate from a modern, fit for purpose primary care centre and enable clinical and community services to run from one central location.

As part of their application to relocate, the practice also shared with the committee the feedback from their patient and public engagement which raised concerns over the withdrawal of services in Wylam, difficulties with transport and accessibility.

The CCG noted these concerns and has agreed to undertake further engagement to hear the views of the local community and assess the impact of the proposed relocation.

Two drop in sessions have been arranged at St Oswin’s Church Hall, Wylam as follows:

  • Wednesday 19 February, 3.00pm – 5.00pm, St Oswin’s Church, Wylam
  • Monday 24 February, 1.00pm – 3.00pm St Oswin’s Church, Wylam
  • Thursday 27 February, 5.00pm – 7.00pm, Wylam Library

Responses from the community, together with the engagement report we produced in 2018 will be used to understand how the practice can address any concerns.

Further information on the next steps will be provided as soon as they are available.


Buildings from Wylam bridge

Riversdale Surgery relocation

Are you a patient at Riversdale Surgery in Wylam?

The practice has received a decision in principle to move its operations to the Oaklands Centre in Prudhoe and is asking patients to complete a short survey about what this might mean for them.

Responses given together with the engagement report we did in 2018, will be used to understand how the practice can address any concerns (you can read our report here).

The practice is particularly keen to hear from patients who find it difficult to travel to Prudhoe and to understand what the practice could do to help them.

The survey closes on Sunday 26 January and a summary of the findings will be put on the surgery website in the next few weeks.

Find the survey on the Riversdale Surgery website

This piece of work is now closed.

Help us understand Patient Participation Groups

Help Healthwatch Northumberland  to understand Patient Participation Groups

We have an exciting opportunity for someone to help us understand more about how the Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) in the county work and how they interact with the health service commissioners and providers.

Healthwatch Northumberland is committed to working in partnership with key groups in local communities and with decision makers, providers and commissioners of health and social care services.   We recognise that PPGs in GP practices are an important way in which local people can influence the services on offer, and how improvements can be made for the benefit of patients, carers and the practice.

The brief below tells you more about the work we would like to do and how you could help us to achieve it.   The closing date for submissions is 9.00am on 24 October.

To discuss the project contact Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator or 03332 408468.

Understanding Patient Particpation Groups in Northumberland


This opportunity has now closed.



Pills spilling from a jar

Changes to Repeat Prescriptions – 28 Day Prescribing

If you are being prescribed medicines on a repeat prescription, then the amount of medicine you receive on each prescription is changing from a three month supply of medicines to a 28 day supply.


How will 28 day prescribing affect me?

GP practices in Northumberland are changing to ‘28 day prescribing’, which means each time you get a prescription, you will receive enough of each medicine to last you for 28 days.


How can I order repeat prescriptions?

In person at your GP surgery

Over the phone (some surgeries)

GP Online Services


GP Online Services

After registering to use online services from your GP, you will be able to renew or order repeat prescriptions online. The service is free and everyone who is registered with a GP can have access to their practice’s online services. For more information contact your GP practice or visit NHS Choices.


Will it cost patients more?

If you pay prescription charges and you need more than one  item a month the best way to pay for your prescriptions would be to obtain a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC).

A PPC lets you get as many NHS prescriptions as you need for a set price. If you regularly pay prescription charges, a PPC could save you money. The price of a PPC has remained the same over the last few years, whereas the prescription charge increases each year.

The current prescription charge in England is £8.60 per item and a PPC costs £29.10 for three months or £104 for 12 months.


Are there any exceptions?

Depending on your individual circumstances there may be exceptions to the 28 day policy. For example there are some drugs which are packaged in three monthly amounts, for example, contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy. These will continue to be supplied in this way.


Further Information

If you have any questions about 28 day prescribing, or would like more information, please contact your GP practice. You can also ask your community pharmacist for further information.

If you are having difficulties with prescriptions Healthwatch Northumberland would like to hear from you. Please give us a call: 03332 408468 or use our contact us page.

Hadrian Primary Care Alliance logo

Easter Appointments with Hadrian Extra Care Hub

Patients who are registered with any of these practices can now access appointments from 9am-1pm on Good Friday and Easter Monday, as well as on Easter Saturday from 9am-5pm at the HADRIAN EXTRA CARE HUB based at Corbridge Health Centre.

Appointments must be booked in advance through your own GP Practice. Any follow-up or onward management of your condition will be arranged by your own GP.

Participating Practices:

Adderlane Surgery

Bellingham Practice

Branch End Surgery

Burn Brae Medical Group

Corbridge Medical Group

Haydon Bridge and Allendale Medical Practice

Haltwhistle Medical Group

Humshaugh and Wark Medical Group

Prudhoe Medical Group

Riversdale Surgery

Scots Gap Surgery

Sele Medical Practice

White Medical Group

Infograpgic f stick figures with clipboard

Wylam Primary Care Provision survey

We are seeking feedback from people in Wylam and the surrounding area about the proposals by the Riversdale Surgery to move its services to Prudhoe. The survey will help us find out what, if any, issues and concerns this raises for residents and we will report back on our findings when we have collated all the feedback.

This survey is now closed.