Our open letter to primary care colleagues in Leeds

It doesn’t seem that long ago when we had the first reported UK case of COVID-19 at the end of January, since then the healthcare landscape has changed dramatically. We’re currently experiencing a strange new normal that we’ve all had to adapt to while quickly making changes to the way services are delivered and we wanted to recognise how our colleagues in primary care have risen to that challenge.

The core message from the government is all about staying at home to protect the NHS but actually it’s also about protecting our own patients. The relationship many of you will have with your patients, especially those who you have regular contact with, is as personal as it can get. This relationship is something that can be unique to primary care.

Our new normal has seen you opening your doors on Good Friday and Easter Monday in an unprecedented but necessary move. Thank you for doing this, a thank you from the whole system. That thank you is not just reserved for the healthcare staff in your practice but the wider GP practice team, they’ve all had to adapt to the new normal and carry on. Another example that we’re all in this together.

These rapid changes and this fast evolving situation means we’ve all done some great work, and also probably made mistakes as organisations and mistakes as individuals. Not mistakes that compromise patient care but mistakes that could have impacted on the way we offer services. However this is a situation that no matter how well we planned for there’s always an unforeseen challenge in a crisis situation but we’re confident we’ve prepared as well as we can do.

We want people to stay safe and will continue to ensure that we provide our colleagues with the right equipment to do their job. It’s been widely acknowledged that there’s been supply issues with PPE, we’ve proactively addressed this and will continue to do so. We’re listening and we’re learning.

We cannot and will not forget that our colleagues in secondary care need our support. We cannot and will not forget that our care home colleagues, those working in community services and social care need our support. We cannot and will not forget that they too will need to offer their support to us. And we cannot and will not forget the intense physical and emotional impact this will have on each of you, so you must ensure you take time out, look after yourselves and your colleagues.

Our rapidly changing approach to delivering safe, personalised care has demonstrated how primary care can adapt to the challenges. We now are routinely offering telephone and video consultations and we’re working in partnership to look at different operating models that offer mutual support.

We’ve been really careful about advising our practices and our colleagues to have compassionate and personalised discussions on advance care planning and end of life care. Conversations that we may not have been ready for with some of our patients. It’s a sad reality that we may be affected directly by the loss of one of our own patients.

We need your support in getting our key messages out to our patients. Yes accessing services will be different, certain routine appointments and referrals to secondary care need to be suspended but we are very much here and we’ll continue to offer care for people especially when they’re at their most vulnerable. The message is our NHS is here for you when you need it.

Do try to get some downtime this weekend but just like the rest of the population remember to follow the guidance to stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.

Thank you for everything you’re doing and we welcome your ongoing support.

Dr Simon Stockill
Medical Director
NHS Leeds CCG

Tim Ryley
Chief Executive
NHS Leeds CCG

Jim Barwick
Chief Executive
Leeds GP Confederation