In mid-February 2020 the Surgeries responded to the global threat of coronavirus by implementing new ways of working. As the pandemic crisis deepened it created an unprecedented reshape of how we as a Group of Practices and the wider NHS service delivered care. The Surgeries had to rise to the new challenges of continuing to attend to the medical needs of patients whilst simultaneously significantly reducing face-to-face contact with the general public.

The Elmham Team thought it may be useful to provide a brief overview as to how the Surgeries are managing. The Elmham Surgery was, within hours, transformed into ‘Hot and Cold zones’ and Doctors and Nurses swapped overnight to a system of using new technology to allow video consultations, text messaging and conference calls.

Swanton Morley and Toftwood Surgeries were also re-shaped to provide various services in a different format. The Elmham Dispensary Team (working 2 metres apart) provided 28,000 individual prescription items in the first month of the virus. Volunteers came forward to help man the front doors and continue to do so still, guiding patients and continuing to help the Surgery run effectively. Those patients needing to attend for essential tests are managed in a flow system to ensure social distancing measures are maintained. Doctors and Nurses swapped into scrubs and PPE from their more traditional attire.

Work is continuing to manage all aspects of care, whether this is in the Surgeries, at home, or through Care Home visiting. Further plans are underway to manage services for when lockdown restrictions are eased (though, like the rest of the population, we have no indication of the timing or what the recommendations will be!)

The use of technology, video consultations and SMS texting has become a new ‘normal’ way of working. Delivering healthcare into the next few months (and further into the future) will see this continuing to advance and healthcare will shift towards remote ways of managing long-term conditions. We are looking to trial a new system over the next couple of weeks that prevents un-necessary Surgery visits and to streamline processes. We will be asking for patients to gather data in advance (forewarned by text or phone-call of what we need) rather than attending for lengthy face-to face discussions, thereby reducing infection risks and minimising further absence from work for our patients.

The spirit of colleagues, patients and complete strangers keeps the Team going. The supply of cakes and treats means the transition from elasticated scrubs to pre-pandemic work clothing may however prove a significant hurdle for some. Overall, the Surgeries are committed to continuing to provide the best standard of care we always strive for. The way we work will be different, but the Pandemic has opened up opportunities to provide care and services in unique ways that can be continued and there are opportunities into the future.

Please continue as a community to follow the official guidance issued by the government. We will endeavour to keep you informed of any updates and changes as we progress through the near future. Bear with us as we continue to deliver the care required.

Published: May 5, 2020