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Q&A about how GP Practices are working

Published 28/09/2021

Staff in our GP practices are working non-stop to make sure we are open and here for you and your family when you need us.

Most people have gone through a very difficult time since we started hearing about the new coronavirus early in 2020. We understand people are often worried or upset when they need to get in touch with their GP practice. We also know it can be frustrating if you struggle to get through to us on the telephone.

We would like to explain a little about how we are working in primary care and what is being done to make sure you and your family get the care you need, in the right place and at the right time. We will try and answer some of the questions we are being asked and we hope we can support you to help yourself when seeking advice and support.

We would also ask you to continue to be kind to our staff (both on the phone and in person), socially distance where possible and wear a face mask when you visit. These are challenging times for all of us and your patience and support are highly appreciated by everyone working in your GP practice.

Is my practice open?

Yes! GP practices in North East Lincolnshire are fully open and all our staff are working flat out, as they have been right through the pandemic.

Although COVID-19 is still with us and will be a part of our lives for some time to come, practices are seeing a lot of people, with more appointments with doctors, nurses and other health professionals both face to face and online than before the pandemic started.

For example, latest figures show there were 99,240 general practice appointments in June 2021. This is 3.2% more appointments than in June 2019 before we heard anything about the new coronavirus.

64% of these appointments were face to face with the patient visiting the practice and 56% were booked on the same day.

General Practice teams have also been at front of the COVID vaccination programme which has meant we have all been able to get back to something like normal life, and most importantly, many people's lives have been saved.

Why does my practice look empty?

The pandemic isn't over. To protect everyone, especially older or poorly people who are most at risk from COVID, we have to maintain a safe environment and keep unnecessary personal contact inside our practices to a minimum. That's why the physical environment will look at bit different to years gone by.

When you walk into a GP surgery, it will look calm and quiet, not like the full busy waiting rooms people remember with patients coughing and spreading infections whilst they waited. Behind the closed doors of consulting rooms – every GP and nurse are either seeing people or calling patients, either by telephone or video.

Why can't I get through on the phone?

Busy phone lines reflect the high demand being experienced and does not mean that staff are not working hard to deal with everybody. For those people who are able to do so, we would encourage them to submit any non-urgent requests or queries through the practice's online consultation system, which you should be able to find on your GP practice's website. This then frees up the telephone lines for those people that are unable to use the online system.

How are practices working?

Many patients found it beneficial to talk to a GP over the phone or online in Lockdown. GP appointments from home can save time and mean you don't have to go out if you are under the weather.

When it's right for them patients will still be offered this kind of appointment. All local healthcare services are extremely busy and GP practices are no exception. If you can see or talk to your GP from home it saves face-to-face appointments for patients who really need them and means you will be seen more quickly.

What are the benefits?

Working this way:

  • helps reduce the spread of infections, not just Covid and so protecting our staff and our patients.
  • helps people get advice from us when previously they used to struggle due to work and caring commitments
  • means we can provide more on the day appointments as our appointments are not all fully booked with face to face appointments and so you can get access to a GP or clinician when you need it
  • gives us more flexibility on the amount of time we spend with patients, so we can spend longer on those that really need it.
  • fewer wasted slots with patients who “did not attend” their appointments.

Why am I being asked so many questions?

When you ring for an appointment, you will find you are asked more questions than you used to be. This is so your practice can make sure you get the help you need as quickly as possible.

You will be assessed to see if you need:

  • To be seen in person
  • A phone consultation
  • A video consultation
  • Help from another member of the team or another local healthcare team

This helps keep people safe and makes sure they are directed to the most appropriate healthcare professional for their needs.

Everyone who needs to be seen will be seen, with the most urgent medical needs being addressed as a priority.

I wanted to see my GP, why am I seeing someone else?

Some patients do not need to speak to a GP at all and they can be seen more quickly and appropriately by a different healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist, mental health professional or nurse practitioner. Sometimes a patient's problem isn't a health one at all and they can be quickly put in touch with the right social support to sort things out for them

Where else can I get help and advice?

Visit www.nhs.uk for advice on common symptoms and a list of local services or speak to your community pharmacist for advice on minor illnesses or injuries.

You can ring 111 for advice about health concerns 24/7 and access to urgent health services.

Don't forget to download the NHS App onto your smart phone where you can order repeat prescriptions quickly and easily.

I'm not happy about the service I've received, can I speak to someone? If you're unable to resolve your problem with the practice or you would rather speak to someone who doesn't work there, you can contact the CCG Patient Advice team on 0300 3000 500 or send an email to