“We will continue to refine the model and find a new balance as we go, because it won’t go away overnight. ”
These are the words of a rural GP as doctors face a cold and flu season like no other.
Covid-19 has changed the way the health service works. For most of us, the face of this health service is usually our general practitioner.
Like the rest of the health service, general practitioners have had to change the way they work.
“As GPs we fail to see patients, we love to see patients,” said Dr Rachael Wright, general practitioner in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh.
“We are always seeing patients who need to be seen. “
Like most practices across the UK, Dr Wright’s surgery has largely moved to a ‘phone first’ system.
“Patients phone and they get a phone appointment,” she said.
“Then the doctor, nurse or person from the multidisciplinary team – physio, mental health practitioner – will call the patient back.
” It’s a date. Things can often be sorted out over the phone and this also reduces the risk for the patient to have to go to the health center. ”
Dr Rachael Wright said some changes may remain after Covid
The goal is to prevent people from ending up in a waiting room, especially as the cold and flu season begins. The symptoms of these diseases are similar to those of Covid-19.
“But there are patients who need to be seen,” Dr. Wright said.
“There are things that cannot be resolved over the phone – stomach pain, examining a breast mass – and these patients are still seen in practice. ”
But in the streets of east Belfast, some have reported a mixed experience.
An older couple said: “That’s great. When we phone the health center, the doctor calls us back that morning and he usually says “get off” or he will say, “I’ll leave you a prescription”, so really the contact with the doctor is great. ”
A woman persevered with the problem she had told the doctor about, but preferred to see her GP.
She said, “You just tell her what’s wrong with you and, you know, they just give you something on the phone.
“I have had pain since the lock started in my leg and I think it’s just sciatica so they prescribed pills for me it relieved me a bit but it’s definitely not far away .
“I mean you’d rather go in and see the doctor, so you know exactly what’s wrong with you.”
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A young man said he hadn’t had any problems and welcomed the changes.
He said, “I did it over the phone, had a consultation with my doctor too, and I was and I collected prescriptions. It was quite effective to be honest. ”
A woman on a mobility scooter had just had her blood pressure taken by a nurse, but was unable to see a doctor.
She said, “I have been in contact with the doctor. You can phone him and tell him your symptoms and he will see if he can help you.
“I think some doctors are different because you can come in to see some of them, but I can’t come in to see mine, no. “
The question for everyone is, when will things get back to the normal we used to know? That, Dr Wright said, might never happen.
She said: “If Covid were to go away tomorrow, by a vaccine, yes things will come back, but will they come back 100% or will we use some of these things as a positive? ”
“Phone calls don’t work all the time, but they do.
“Things like video consultations, sending photos, better networks with secondary care – there were positives and I don’t think we’re going to throw it all away. “