During April, in the first full month of lockdown, Leeds GP practices saw an almost 50% increase in consultations carried out over telephone or video, although overall demand for appointments* dropped by around 100,000 according to figures from the local NHS.
NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has issued the figures as part of its #NHSHereForYou campaign to remind people that GP practices are open but the way they provide care has changed. This includes changes to booking appointments as people now need to either call their practice or use online services, with walk-in appointments suspended.
The city’s 94 GP practices saw appointments drop by 105,000 from 380,000 in April 2019 to 275,000 this year. However almost half of all appointment (46%) were carried out over the telephone or through video consultation compared to just 13% in April 2019.
This reflects the new ways of working that healthcare professionals call ‘total triage’, where all appointment requests are dealt with by an initial telephone or video consultation. A face-to-face appointment is then offered if the health professional feels it is clinically necessary and safe to do so, after the initial consultation.
Anyone attending a face-to-face appointment must wear a face covering and follow any other instructions provided by their GP practice. These infection control measures allow practices to keep patients and staff safe while continuing to provide the best possible care for patients. The CCG is also reminding people to cancel appointments if they no longer need them. In April people did not attend 3% of appointments and did not notify their GP practice that they no longer needed to be seen.
Dr Simon Stockill, Medical Director for NHS Leeds CCG, said “We want to thank people in Leeds who have been following the lockdown message of staying at home although we share the concerns of other medical professionals that some people are not accessing healthcare when they need to. We recognise some of this will have been down to people not wanting to be a burden to the NHS or fearing they may get COVID-19 when accessing services. I want to assure people your NHS is here for you and if you need medical help you must access it. You will be seen in a low risk, safe environment.
“Access to your local GP practice has changed but this doesn’t mean it’s stopping you contacting us for any health concerns. I would strongly advise you to get in touch with your GP practice if you have concerns regarding ongoing conditions, ear discharge / pain, rashes, and stomach aches. If you have any cancer symptoms such as a lump in your breast, changes in bowel habits, blood in your pee or poo, unexplained weight loss, moles that appear to change or cough that you’ve had for three weeks or more please get in touch with your GP practice as soon as possible.”
The advice for people with suspected coronavirus remains the same, stay at home and self-isolate. If anyone thinks they have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature or a new continuous cough, they can use the online advice hub to see if they need medical help: https://111.nhs.uk/service/COVID-19/. Anyone who is still worried, or doesn’t have access to the internet, can call NHS 111.
To find out how to access the right healthcare please visit www.leedsccg.nhs.uk/HereForYou
*The figures are based on recorded activity that’s coded by GP practices on clinical systems
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The NHS in Leeds has continued to provide care, with these being conducted by telephone or video conferencing where safe and appropriate to do so.
Some face-to-face appointments have also continued for urgent treatment but many routine appointments and those which could leave patients and staff at increased risk of COVID-19 transmission had been postponed.
Exemptions from wearing a face covering
For some people, wearing a face covering may be difficult due to physical or mental health conditions. In these instances, other measures will be considered on a case by case basis, for example timed appointments and being seen immediately on arrival.
The following groups do not need to wear a face covering:
- Young children under the age of three
- Anyone with anatomical difficulties that would make wearing a face covering impossible or painful e.g. facial injuries
- People with breathing difficulties
- Anyone who experiences severe discomfort or distress while wearing a face covering such as those with severe claustrophobia
Stay at home if you have COVID-19 symptoms
If prior to any appointment patients or anyone in their household develops symptoms that might be related to COVID-19 they should not visit a GP practice, pharmacy or hospital. If anyone has a planned operation at the hospital, they should ring the booking team on the contact number on their appointment letter and we will rebook their appointment.
- A high temperature – You don’t need a thermometer or to know a precise temperature; if you feel hot to touch on your chest or back then you probably have a raised temperature.
- A new continuous cough – new means a cough that you’ve not had before, or if you usually have a cough, it’s changed or got worse; continuous: means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.
- Loss of smell or taste
If you think you have the symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature or a new continuous cough, please use the new online advice hub that can tell you if you need medical help: https://111.nhs.uk/service/COVID-19/