People reminded that GP surgeries are still open

GPs across west Essex are urging people to contact them when they need medical advice and keep appointments they have already made.

We may be living under a second lockdown, but GPs, dentists, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and other NHS services across the county have always been, and continue to remain, open. The way patients are seen and receive services will be different to keep patients and staff safe.

If patients need to speak to a nurse or GP, they will first be triaged on the telephone or online. After this, the practice will let patients know what sort of appointment they will have. This will be a telephone consultation, a video call or a face-to-face appointment.

Face-to-face appointments are still taking place, but only if it is absolutely essential. If a face-to-face appointment is made, safety measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This means that fewer patients can be seen in a day, which could lead to longer waiting times for those with less serious issues. GPs and nurses may also be wearing protective clothing to keep you both safe.

Screening services, appointments for long term conditions and checks and treatment for cancer, stroke or heart disease are still taking place. Patients should call their GP immediately if they experience worrying symptoms or are ill and their condition deteriorates.

Rob Gerlis, Harlow GP and Chair of West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said it is vital patients keep their appointments – whether it is with their GP, hospital or other healthcare professionals.

He said: “It’s really important patients know that we are here for them when they need us. If they have appointments, keep them. If they have booked their free flu jab, keep the appointment to stay protected from flu this the winter. We are not closed because we are in lockdown or because there is a pandemic. We never have been. The way you have your appointment will be different.

If people experience symptoms like unexpected weight loss, pain or a lump, it’s vital they make an appointment to speak to their GP or nurse so they can get it checked.

“The NHS has worked hard to make sure that hospitals, surgeries and clinics are safe for people to attend. We know things are different and this can feel unsettling, but please contact your GP if you have a medical problem. We may be working differently, but those changes have been made to keep patients and staff safe.”

In order to ensure patient safety, people are asked not to arrive at their GP practice without an appointment.  For urgent physical or mental health help when your GP is closed, or for help if you are not registered with a GP practice, go online to NHS 111 or call 111.  All calls are free to this number. As ever, for very serious life or limb-threatening emergencies, people should dial 999 immediately.

Urgent dental appointments are also available to those who need them – call your dentist or ring NHS 111 for advice on how to get an appointment.

Rob added: “Please remember your GP services are open, always have been and will continue to be. We may not be able to always see you face-to-face, but we ask you to be patient and be kind as our staff do their best to make sure you get the best care possible.”