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GPs ‘need more support than ever before’

9 June 2021

GPs at Newry Health Village say general practice needs the support of the public and public representatives now more than ever. 

This was as former council chairperson, Laura Devlin, visited Newry Health Village on May 25,  as one of her last ever district visits in her chairperson role.

Dr Tayo Idowu, chair of the Newry and District GP Federation and Dr Arnie McDowell, Chair of Southern Federation Support Unit, told the Newry Reporter that ‘staff and doctors in practices continue to work differently compared to before the pandemic, but are stressed and exhausted with the level and intensity of workload’. 

“The workload is now back to the pre-Covid ‘normal’, and yet we still have to work in a very different way, to ensure that surgeries are a safe place for patients who need to attend,” they said.

“General practice pre-Covid was incredibly busy, with many of our patients suffering pain and distress while awaiting treatment in hospital, with waiting lists the longest in the UK, and too few GPs, practice nurses and other practice clinicians. 

“All of this applies still - but now with longer waiting lists, and the continuing pandemic, with triage of patient symptoms, staffing of Covid Centres and the vaccine programme.”

They added that the winter will be challenging, with the likely need for a booster vaccination programme as well as a likely upsurge in Covid cases and other illnesses such as flu.

“We realise that the public want to turn the clock back to February 2020 and have everything as it was before - GPs would also love to, but we really can’t at this point.

“And if you’re eligible for a vaccine and haven’t had it yet - please do so, to protect yourself and others.”

Clanrye Medical Practise GP and partner, Dr Patricia King, said that even before Covid, ‘GPs were already struggling to meet demand’.

“We ran pre-booked surgeries of 10 minute appointments which were booked out at least two weeks in advance,” she explained.

“There were multiple additional emergency appointments every day. Our waiting room was packed. Social distancing would have been impossible.”

She said Covid forced them to change their way of working overnight. 

“All of our receptionists received training in call handling,” she explained. 

“This was vital so that calls, particularly emergency calls, were dealt with safely and appropriately. We, in Clanrye Medical Practice, are very fortunate to have a multi-disciplinary team which includes two practice nurses, a treatment room nurse, phlebotomists, physio, mental health workers, a pharmacist and a very busy reception team led by our Practice Manager. All of this team works tirelessly every day dealing with calls from our patients. As well as telephone calls we utilise virtual consultations, this includes a secure service which allows photos to be sent via a text message.”

Cornmarket Medical Practise GP and partner, Dr Elaine King, added that in addition to usual services, GPs have also provided cover for the Covid Centre in Banbridge and under the organization of our Practice Manager have delivered over 2000 covid vaccinations.

“The collective efforts and innovation of our entire team has ensured that our surgery has remained open, throughout this very difficult period,” she said.

“We also appreciate the support and understanding of our patients who have so readily adapted to the new arrangements for accessing GP services.”

Cllr Devlin said she was delighted to visit the Health Village following a year of changing and adapting.

“I heard first-hand the stories from the doctors and their teams, especially those taking the calls and doing their best - in often quite challenging circumstances,” she said. 

“I think many of us are guilty of overlooking primary care and focusing on our A&Es and our vaccination centres. Our GPs have been an extremely important and vital cog in the wheel and I wish to thank them and their staff – the full length and breadth of our District for their hard work and determination, especially over the past 15 months.”

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