Published on Sep 8, 2021
Many patients discovered the benefits of talking to a GP over the phone or online during Lockdown. GP appointments from home can save you time and mean you don’t have to go out if you are feeling under the weather.
Where appropriate, patients will still be offered this kind of appointment. All local healthcare services are extremely busy at the moment and GP practices are no exception. If you can see your GP from home then it saves face-to-face appointments for those patients who really need them and often means you will be seen more quickly.
Although COVID-19 is still with us and will be a part of our lives for some time to come, GP practices are seeing a lot of people come through their doors with more appointments with doctors, nurses and other health professionals both face to face and online than before the pandemic.
Some patients, especially those with long term health conditions, may find they would rather avoid going into their practice when possible while COVID is still circulating.
“GPs and their teams are dealing with just as many (actually more) patients that we did before the pandemic, explains Dr Ekta Elston, local GP and Medical Director at NHS North East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
“When you walk into a GP surgery – it will look calm and quiet, not like the full busy waiting rooms of before with people coughing and spreading infections whilst they waited. Behind the closed doors of consulting rooms – every GP and nurse are calling patients, either via telephone or video.
“For a lot of patients, we find having a telephone conversation discussing the problem, what the person is worried about, asking questions about what has been happening – we can come up with a plan to help over the telephone. Sometimes that means organising blood tests, investigations, asking a specialist for advice, or trying treatment to help.
“In the cases, where we need to do a physical examination to find out more, we can arrange a face to face appointment before deciding what we need to do next.”
Some patients don’t even need to speak to a GP at all and they can be seen more quickly and appropriately by a different healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist or nurse practitioner. Sometimes a patient’s problem isn’t a health one at all and they can be quickly put in touch with the right support to sort things out for them. This is why when you ring for an appointment, you will find you are asked more questions than you used to be. This is so your practice can make sure you get the help you need as quickly as possible.
Dr Elston explained that by working this way, local doctors have seen the following benefits for their patients;
- It helps reduce the spread of infections, not just Covid and so protecting our staff and our patients.
- It helps people get advice from us when previously they used to struggle due to work and caring commitments
- It means we can provide more on the day appointments as our appointments are not all fully booked with face to face appointments and so you can get access to a GP or clinician when you need it.
- We have more flexibility on the amount of time we spend with patients, so we can spend longer on those that really need it.
- We have less wasted appointments with patients who “did not attend” their GP appointment
If you are asked to visit your practice, you will be instructed to come alone where possible, wear a face covering, use the hand sanitiser and abide by social distancing inside the building. We need to keep our practices up and running as well as keeping staff and patients safe from the risks of COVID.
To have a video appointment you need:
- a smartphone, tablet or computer that allows video calling – remember to make sure your microphone and camera are switched on;
- an internet connection;
- a well-lit quiet and private space so the GP can see you clearly.
The following tips will help you get the most out of your appointment:
- A video call is very similar to a face-to-face appointment. You will get the same care.
- The GP, doctor or healthcare professional will ask you questions about your health to work out the best treatment for you. You can also ask any questions you may have.
- It might help to write down what they say, so you keep a record. Any notes will be added to your record after the call.
- Also prepare ahead and write down what you want to ask the GP
- If you are prescribed any medicine, the doctor or healthcare professional will give you advice on how to take it. They may talk to you about the best way of getting your prescription.
- They can refer you if needed or give you any advice just as they would during a face-to-face appointment.
- If your video call does not work or you do not have signal, they will try a phone call instead.
- If this is not possible, you will be able to rebook your appointment.
You may also be offered a video appointment by hospitals, mental health services and community care services.
If you start to feel worse while waiting for your phone or video appointment, you should call 111 for advice. If you feel it is an emergency, ring 999.