GPs & Pharmacies in Essex during COVID-19

The impact of Coronavirus in Essex means that national and local services are needing to adapt and change. They are doing this to protect us all (including their staff and volunteers), to protect the services they continue to offer and to do so in as safe a way as possible.

Please use our local services wisely, be patient and understanding. Prior to contact with any service, please visit their website to check for the latest advice. If you think you might have Coronavirus, do not visit your GP practice. Please follow the latest advice available here.

How have GP services changed?

Local GP practices are under pressure. Staff shortages caused by self-isolation and the need to ensure patients are managed in a safe way mean that practices are having to work very differently.

You are likely to have non-urgent care cancelled or delayed across all NHS or care services and it is no longer possible to walk into your local practice to discuss concerns with staff. Instead, they will rely upon other means of contact. Each practice can take its own approach but, generally, you may notice the following changes:

  • You probably won’t see your GP face-to-face

You are much less likely to have face-to-face contact with your GP. Instead, you may be offered a telephone or online consultation. Following triage, if a doctor needs to see you, specific arrangements will be made. These will vary from practice to practice but might include a visit to the surgery or someone visiting your home. It is a good idea to look for information from your local practice website now. That includes any details about how you can register for online access to appointments or triage.

  • Your local GP practice might close with little warning

If this happens, it is likely to be because your local surgery is a branch of a larger site and it is easier to manage the service from a single site. This might mean travelling further than normal to be seen by a doctor. Or it might simply be because the practice does not have enough staff to operate a safe service. In the case of a full practice closure, please don’t worry, because help is still available. Our Information & Signposting Team remains here to support you with all health and social care enquiries in Essex. For support, please call 0300 500 1895; leave a message and we’ll reply as soon as possible. Alternatively, text 07712 395 398 or email info@healthwatchessex.org.uk.

  • Your practice may open or close at different times and this can change without warning

Importantly, this will usually happen to allow staff some time for a break. It may also occur because of staff shortages.

What about local pharmacies & medication?

Community pharmacies are also facing new challenges. Pharmacists and their teams are part of the NHS family of professionals. Many are struggling to manage staff shortages and remaining staff are working long hours to meet demand. As they come under increased pressure, pharmacies are having to take a number of steps to ensure that they can continue to supply the medicines and products that people need, including:

  • Operating on a closed-door basis at some points during the day. This allows pharmacy teams to dispense medicines safely and to meet unprecedented demand for prescription medicines.
  • Restricting the supply of some products including paracetamol, hand sanitisers and formula milk. NHS England/NHS Improvement has asked pharmacies to do this to ensure that everyone can have supplies.
  • Asking customers and patients to keep 2m (6 feet) away from other people when inside the pharmacy which may lead to queues.

You should continue to order medicines and purchase products as normal. There is no need to stockpile. There are enough medicines for everyone, so long as everyone only orders the prescriptions and buys the medicines they really need, in the normal manner.

Getting Local Information

 

Information about our local services is changing all the time. If you need help to find local care, you can call us on 0300 500 1895; leave a message and we’ll reply as soon as possible. Alternatively, text 07712 395 398 or email info@healthwatchessex.org.uk.

Please note that we cannot provide clinical advice or guidance. You can find the latest information on Coronavirus and services in Essex below.

Guidance and Information Hub