It’s good to be back after a short break from my blog last month.
As I sit down to write this I reflect on where I thought we would be as children finally get back to school after a period of home schooling that neither they nor their parents will forget! I suspect both parties have never been more grateful for the return to the classroom. I know my three children certainly couldn’t wait to get back to ‘normal’.
Sadly, how long that “normal” will last, we do not know. Numbers of positive Covid-19 cases are rising exponentially and local restrictions in northern parts of our country are increasing. There are also understandable concerns about stricter measures being necessary for all of us in order to protect the population from the impact of a second wave.
So how prepared are we if a second wave hits in winter - what is already the most difficult time of year for all health and care services? Well, we are certainly better prepared than during the first wave of the pandemic and the remarkable agility of our teams and services has given us invaluable learning.
Primary care now has a proven method of digital access and virtual support that can manage a large amount of its day-to-day work even if we find ourselves living under tighter restrictions. Patients are becoming more comfortable with using digital means to seek and receive help, not just from their GP practice but also hospital services who have started to develop virtual consultations and direct patient initiated virtual pathways. All of these new models will help services to continue running if a second wave hits. The majority of prescribing has moved to a paperless electronic approach. This minimises the need for patients to attend practices to ‘order’ their medications and streamlining the process for community pharmacies.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs – groups of practices and their community partners coming together around a community of 30-50,000 patients) are working to offer a network of hubs where patients presenting with high temperatures or symptoms suggestive of Covid can be seen in dedicated premises by dedicated teams. This allows our local surgeries to continue to manage the day-to-day business of supporting people with long-term conditions, prevention, immunisation and diagnostic conundrums in the safest possible way.
These PCNs will continue to mature and develop over the coming months and years. They are set to provide key services like the enhanced care models in our care homes. This was implemented by primary care during the Spring peak in the pandemic to make sure our most vulnerable are supported with staff able to access to a lead clinician for advice and a regular ‘check-in’ with the home. This has vastly improved the outcomes for our care home residents and will continue to do so.
The PCN model will also allow a significant increase in multidisciplinary roles to join the primary care services offered by practices. Additional roles under the PCN scheme include Physiotherapists and Social Prescribers, Physician Associates and Clinical Pharmacists, Clinical Paramedics, mental health professionals and a number of others to help support the primary care team. This means better care and service for our patients, close to their homes and the ability to access more specialist input, more locally where needed.
What can you do to help? Please just follow the guidance. Social distancing, washing hands, wearing a mask when in public areas, self-isolating and getting a test as soon as you feel unwell with a fever, new onset of cough or loss of taste or smell. By us all doing our bit we can keep Surrey as safe and open as possible.
Dr Charlotte Canniff
Clinical Chair - NHS Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group