Updated 16th July 2021.
Message from NHS England:
Covid restrictions will end in many settings in England from Monday.
However, Public Health England’s infection prevention control guidelines and hospital visiting guidance are set to remain in place for all staff and visitors.
That means NHS visitor guidance will stay in place across all health services including hospitals, GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies to ensure patients and staff are protected.
Staff, patients and visitors will also be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules when visiting any care setting as well as using face coverings, mask and other personal protection equipment.
The NHS will continue to support staff in ensuring that the guidance is followed in all healthcare settings.
Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May said: “Face coverings and social distancing measures will remain in place across healthcare settings so that the most vulnerable people can continue to safely attend hospital, their GP surgery, pharmacy or any other healthcare settings for advice, care and treatment.
“And it is important for the public to continue to play their part when visiting NHS and care settings to help protect our staff and patients, particularly those who may be more vulnerable to infections.
“As restrictions are lifted in many places on Monday everyone has a part to play in helping to control Covid by getting vaccinated and acting responsibly.
“It is vital that in healthcare settings, we do all we can to reduce the risk of infection for those working in our services and those who need our care.”
Health Minister Jo Churchill said: “Face coverings have played an important role in healthcare settings, helping protect vulnerable patients, staff and visitors by limiting the spread of this deadly disease and this guidance remains in place.
“We expect patients, visitors and NHS staff to continue using face coverings and maintain social distancing in all healthcare settings as we cautiously lift restrictions on Monday.
“I urge everyone to play their part and think of those more vulnerable than you when visiting your local hospital or GP surgery.”
The practice has received several comments to enquire about how we are working during the pandemic. We have compiled a number of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) which we hope will help answer some of these questions:
Highparks Medical Practice Covid 19 Restrictions Operating Policy 2020
Frequently Asked Questions
- Your flu clinics are being run from Wainscott and Cliffe, so why do these sites remain closed for GP and Nurse services? In March, the practice put plans in place to consolidate staff and equipment resources into two of the four sites. This has allowed the practice greater flexibility to backfill staff that may have been self-isolating or shielding in order to maintain services in a safe way for patients and staff. The Flu clinics are being provided at Wainscott and Cliffe to reduce the footfall of patients coming to the other two sites for these vaccinations. Our nursing team are running the clinics as an addition to their other appointments and in line with the national guidance of social distancing.
- When will Wainscott and Cliffe re-open? As the country is still facing uncertainty with the pandemic, the practice will continue to provide the majority of its services at Cliffe Woods and Higham. This is as a result of revisiting the risk assessment put in place at the start of the pandemic. The risk of infection is still high and if all four sites were open, there is a greater chance that staff could become infected or have to self-isolate which may result in a complete closure of one or more of our sites.
- Why can’t patients come into the practice? The doors remain closed to prevent the public from walking into the Practice without any form of screening first. This allows us to ensure the safety of our staff and patients is paramount. An intercom system has recently been installed at all practice sites making it easier for reception to inform the clinical staff that you have arrived for your appointment. You will continue to be asked to ring the practice for all other queries.
- Why can’t I pre-book a routine appointment nor have a normal face to face appointment? The practice has a duty to consider all aspects of patient care and protection from the spread of coronavirus as well as protect our own valuable workforce who are vital for the continued running of our services. The practice has adopted the national policy of total triage which enables us to concentrate as many of our resources as possible to offering on the day appointments for acutely unwell patients. We, like all of the GP Practices in Medway, now provide remote consultations via telephone, video-conferencing. After this initial telephone triage, if the clinician feels it is appropriate, the patient will be invited to attend the practice for a face to face appointment with full protective measures. Our nursing team have been providing face to face consultation with patients throughout, dressed in full protective equipment. They are providing blood tests, monitoring of patients with long term conditions (diabetes, asthma, COPD, hypertension etc), child immunisations and cervical screening. There have been some services that the NHS has stopped that include minor operations, travel vaccinations and ear syringing. However we are constantly reviewing national guidance. We have and continue to provide home visits where necessary.
- How am I expected to make an appointment if I can’t get through on the telephones? Recently we have experienced a surge in demand which has led to longer waiting times on the telephone and increased pressure on the appointments we can offer. This has been due to a number of factors, mostly due to the coronavirus restrictions that we have to operate under and the national guidelines that the NHS has adopted for primary care added to an understandable rebound of demand following the easing of lockdown. We understand the frustrations that some of our patients have experienced and we have been looking at ways to enhance and utilise new ways of working. We are investing heavily in technology, infrastructure and recruitment to improve the service we can offer despite all the restrictions that are currently upon all of us.
- I find it difficult to travel to Cliffe Woods or Higham for a Nurse appointment, what are you doing about that? For those who are struggling to travel to these sites, please seek support from relatives, friends or the local community. Our nursing team also have pre-bookable appointments on a Saturday morning as part of our Extended Hours Access and these appointments may be more suitable for patients whose relatives or friends are able to help then as opposed to during the working week. Blood tests can also be booked at MCH House (an appointment is required, please ring 01634 471098) in Gillingham if we have reached our capacity for appointments.
- I normally put my repeat prescription into Wainscott or Cliffe. If these sites are closed, what do I do? You can continue to post your repeat prescriptions through the letterbox of these sites. On a daily basis, our staff go to Wainscott to collect these and then deliver them to either Cliffe Woods or Higham where they are processed in the usual manner. All prescription requests are now sent electronically to the patient’s nominated pharmacy (with the exception of Cliffe Dispensary). Alternatively, you can request your repeat prescriptions online via MyGP App or Patient Access on our website.
- Have your opening times changed due to the pandemic? No, in fact our phone lines are now open from 8.00am – 6.30pm Monday to Friday and you can ring any of the telephone numbers for the four sites to speak to a receptionist at the practice. Lines from Cliffe and Wainscott have been transferred to Higham and Cliffe Woods respectively, so you may wish to ring these sites directly on 01474 823841 (Higham) or 01634 221410 (Cliffe Woods).
- Where can I find up to date information relating to the practice? Our website www.highparksmedicalpractice.nhs.uk is constantly being updated with information about the practice including how to register for online services.
The Partners and Staff would also like to remind patients that:-
1 - We cannot provide early or extra 'just in case' prescriptions, this will only cause shortages of medicines and inhalers, and pharmacies will be like the supermarkets.
2 - We cannot give prescriptions for paracetamol if you do not normally receive it on prescription, even if you cannot find it in the shops, someone somewhere will have some.
3 - We won't give out inhalers on a 'just in case basis'. Especially if you haven't had an inhaler for years. This again will lead to shortages for those who really need inhaled medication. If you feel you are symptomatic, please request a telephone consultation.
4- If your appointment is postponed or moved to telephone consultation, please do not abuse us, these are national guidelines, in place to protect you and to protect us. We are still triaging, talking to, assessing and seeing patients face to face if needed. If you need us, we will see you. We are also wearing PPE, masks and aprons, don’t be alarmed, it’s a precaution only.
5 - Please do not ask for a "rescue pack" if you have asthma or COPD unless you already have this service. There has been fake and false information about rescue packs circulating on social media. These are not an entitlement for all, they are part of a very specific plan of care for patients who have unstable conditions. If you are symptomatic, let us know.
6 - Patients seeking sick notes for their employers (MED3 certificates) can now generate these themselves by clicking onto the following website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice
Then click on "Get Isolation Note" - which is half way down the page highlighted in green. This will take you to the NHS111 page where patients will be asked to answer a few questions. On completion a reference number will be emailed to you which is the sick note.
7 - Please do not ask us about the letters being sent directly from NHS England to all vulnerable patients. The practice is not able to look at individual cases as to whether a patient should or should not be receiving one of these letters. Please adhere to the .Gov COVID-19 guidelines which change regularly - sometimes daily.
8 - Please do not ask us for occupational guidance, we cannot make those decisions or give you advice, this will be between you and your employer. All you need to know is on the .gov website, you have the same access to this guidance as we do.
9 - Please do not expect a pneumococcal vaccination unless you fit the recommended criteria to receive one. Pneumococcal vaccination is in short supply, it is for certain groups of patients only who are classed as vulnerable and it is not a protection for Covid-19.
10 - Please keep up to date with your children's vaccinations, we cannot risk any other outbreaks of childhood diseases on top of everything else. Please don't bring other children along to vaccination appointments and only one adult who is able to consent (Mum-Dad) to accompany the child to surgery.
11 - And please remember:-
- Not come to the practice if you, or anyone in your household, have symptoms associated with coronavirus including a new continuous cough or a high temperature.
- If you have symptoms associated with coronavirus including a new continuous cough and a high temperature, you are advised to stay at home for 10 days. If you live with other people, they should also stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.
- If your symptoms are serious, or get worse, NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need further medical help and advise you what to do.
- Only call 111 direct if you are advised to do so by the online service or cannot go online.
- For the latest coronavirus advice please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.
Finally thank you very much to all our patients and their families who have been understanding, considerate and patient during these difficult and uncertain times.