From Monday 13th September 2021, in response to feedback from patients & an improvement in the COVID-19 pandemic situation, we are making some changes to our appointment system.
The main change is that you will be given a choice of telephone or face-to-face consultation. Our reception staff will be able to assist you with that decision but in general, a face-to-face consultation is required if you feel you might require an examination. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become more experienced in telephone consultations & it has become possible to assess many more problems remotely using cameraphone photographs & video consultations. We are aware that many working-age patients prefer the convenience of a telephone consultation. However, if you request a telephone consultation, we will be unable to see you face-to-face on the same day if you require a physical examination. Telephone consultations are most appropriate for following-up a medical problem that has already been assessed face-to-face. Nevertheless, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, please do not attend the surgery – we can triage you over the telephone & we have access to face-to-face appointments at a local COVID-19 assessment centre if necessary.
The Marshside Surgery is lucky to share a relatively large waiting room & last year, we arranged for the carpet flooring to be replaced with vinyl. This means that compared with most other GP surgeries, we are better able to manage the social distancing & infection control requirements of having more patients waiting together for their consultation. However, many of our patients are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 so we do not feel that we can also allow open access to the building again, for the time-being. If you have a face-to-face appointment, please use the intercom to gain entrance to the building; for anything else, please telephone our reception. On-the-day appointments will continue to become available at 8:10am each weekday & to speed up the caller queue, between 8:10am & 9:00am, we ask that patients only call at this time to request an appointment on the day or to make a request for the surgery to arrange a home visit with the Acute Visiting Service.
The demand for appointments at GP surgeries has skyrocketed over the past 6 months. Despite increasing appointment capacity at the surgery and offering appointments with other healthcare professionals like our Advanced Nurse Practitioner, we realise that some patients are still struggling to book consultations at the surgery as soon as they might like. We have access to telephone & face-to-face consultations at evenings & weekends via the 7-Day GP Service in Birkdale so please let us know if this would be more convenient for you when booking. Another challenge is deciding what proportion of appointments to make available on-the-day, to deal with more urgent problems. Compared with most other areas of Merseyside, Southport does not have an urgent treatment/ walk-in centre, which means GP surgeries are left to deal with medical problems that would otherwise be assessed elsewhere. Therefore, on the grounds of both fairness & safety, most of our GP/ANP appointments will now be made available on-the-day. Pre-bookable consultations are still available to book up to 4 weeks in advance for baby/post-natal checks, contraceptive/HRT reviews, planned procedures, or if a GP/ANP requests a routine follow up.
We hope that the above changes will release some additional capacity at the surgery & make the experience of booking an appointment more streamlined. However, once all of our appointments have been booked, & there is no remaining capacity at the 7-Day GP Service, our only option will be to advise you to telephone NHS 111 instead. 111 will be able to assess the urgency of your problem & help ensure you get any urgent care that you require that day. We have a very small number of urgent afternoon appointments available but these are reserved for young children or vulnerable adults who have become unwell that day, or for managing urgent test results. Ultimately, GP surgeries are not an urgent/emergency care service so if our reception staff advise you to telephone 111/999 or attend an emergency department, please follow their advice. Examples include chest pain, severe breathlessness, severe infection, heavy bleeding, symptoms of a stroke, seizures & mental health emergencies. Anybody with a mental health crisis will be directed to the mental health team.
Thank you very much in anticipation of your support, as we look to make our appointment system as resilient as possible for the winter months ahead. We will continue to seek feedback from our Patient Participation Group – please click here if you would like to be become a member.
Dr Robert Caudwell