Okay … I think we can all agree that the past couple of years have not been exactly what we expected or what we had hoped for. COVID has, let’s be honest, royally mucked up everyone’s plans, no matter how big or small they were.
Here at The Cambridge Practice, we have been doing as much as we can to protect you – our patients – and our staff; this has included ensuring the Government guidelines like mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitising are all followed, a new telephone triage system to reduce footfall in the Practice, which has helped reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and even an isolation room during the height of COVID. We know it’s not been easy for you all – in fact, it’s been very frustrating for you – what with things such as the new telephone triage system and more use of E-Consults, but we want to take this opportunity to thank you for bearing with us as things have changed so rapidly. Everything we have done, and everything we are doing, is to help keep you all as safe as possible – our goal has always been to protect you as much as we can from the risk of COVID and to keep the stability of a contactable GP Surgery at a time when everything else around us is changing.
Of course, then there’s the vaccine centre, which everyone has worked so hard at to get it up and running and to keep it that way; everyone has contributed something to the centre, from time help to give the vaccines to patients, to the kind volunteers ushering patients around the centre, making us all feel welcome and comfortable – because, let’s face it – vaccines can be hard for some people, so a friendly face greeting you and looking after you during the vaccination process can go a long way.
As well as dealing with COVID, the Practice underwent a CQC inspection, and we are very pleased to say we are rated Good under the CQC rating system.
On 14th December, the Practice was involved in a Patient Participation Group (PPG) meeting, and one of the main outcomes of this was an agreement on the emphasis of the benefits of patient access for booking appointments. As a patient, you are able to book your own appointment online via Patient Access – to me, this sounds perfect; it enables you to book something that suits you, and also means you don’t have to wait in the phone queue, so can book appointments at your ease, from your own home – even your own bed if you want – no early mornings spent on the phone line, no having to get your brain functioning before 8am in order to sound presentable on the phone … and if you’re able to … no early morning full stop!
On a slightly different note – I don’t know about you, but I find the itty-gritty details of things can be very interesting, and one of the things within the Practice I find fascinating is the phone recording system. In the Call Handlers room, we have fitted a screen that displays several values – how many people are currently waiting in the phone queue (I am pleased to say that when I viewed this screen, there were 0 waiting – how good is that?!), the average waiting time for those in the call queue, active calls (how many calls are currently being answered), the average time spent on the phone by our Call Handlers, the overall number of answered calls (which was an impressive 544 already when I saw the screen), and how many calls have been abandoned / how many people have hung up. It is extremely interesting to see how these values change each day, and it helps the Practice get an idea of how we can improve the service we provide based on the data this screen gives us.
Anyway, I have rambled on enough; the time has come for me to bid you farewell. I don’t know what the future holds (we can all hope that whatever it holds is better than the past couple of years) but regardless of what happens, enjoy.
My answer comes from the words of Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.
“After all this time?”
The Cambridge Practice would like to acknowledge your feedback and the criticism prevalent on social media regarding long waiting times on our telephone system and difficulties encountered in getting an appointment.
We sincerely hear and understand your frustrations and are working closely with NHS England to try to meet the unprecedented demands we face.
Post lockdown we have been experiencing an unprecedented level of demand on our inbound calls to the practice. Despite our best efforts in opening additional call lines, we are still finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with this demand. Our inbound call data shows we are receiving 8 000 – 12 000 inbound calls per month, averaging nearly 3 000 calls per week.
This does not reflect the increased workload and complexity of direct patient care and administrative services during the pandemic and post lockdown. This also does not take into account our participation in the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme. This increased level of demand is unfortunately not unique to us and is being seen across the country. We are looking at innovative ways, adapting and restructuring our teams in an effort to provide a more effective service for you.
We now all face new challenges. General Practice is not as it was before the pandemic. The pandemic itself has brought new ways of working and challenges that have affected the team humanly and our pre-pandemic structure for patient access. We have developed Care Navigators who are trained to triage and signpost you to the appropriate service you require or our new urgent care same day access service to see a clinician face to face.
It is very important to us that we are open, honest, and transparent with the challenges we are facing as a practice and the increased patient demand.
For calls relating to an urgent medical problem that you feel needs to be assessed or addressed that day, please call from 8am to speak to one of our Care Navigators who will triage and signpost you appropriately.
For calls relating to investigation results or queries about your medical record, you can access this information via the NHS APP online access by downloading the NHS APP and registering.
For calls to discuss your investigations further or book a routine blood test you can contact the practice later in the day or book an appointment yourself if you sign up for online access or do this via our front desk service.
For calls relating to care, you are receiving from a Specialist Team at the hospital, we kindly ask that you contact them directly for support.
We are here, we are listening, and we are working hard to make sure that you are seen to in the appropriate time, by the appropriate person. Hopefully we can work together to improve the outcomes for everyone.
The Cambridge Practice Partners
It’s officially the festive season, and it is time to get excited! Not only is it “the most wonderful time of the year”, it is also an exciting time within the Practice!
Where to start, where to start …?
Let’s begin with IT shall we? I’m not going to sit here and pretend I am an IT genius and claim I know all there is to know about IT and its significance, because, quite frankly – I’m not, and I don’t. However, what I do know is that we have introduced E-Consult and the NHS App to our Practice. The NHS App, for anyone that doesn’t know, allows you to book appointments online, check your symptoms and order repeat medication – all without coming into or calling the surgery! (Which is great – especially during the holidays – you don’t even have to leave your bed! … Duvet day anyone!?)
Another thrilling venture we are taking as a Practice is introducing “A Day in the Life of …”. Have you ever wondered what it is like working as a Nurse, a GP, a Secretary? Well, wonder no more! In the New Year we are looking at sorting something special out for you all – something that will enable you to spend a day in the life of us – The Cambridge Practice staff! (And I assure you, we are all riveting people with stories to tell and things to show you, so fear not – you will not be disappointed!)
As I have said before, it is officially Christmas; a time of cheer, good will … and great food (let’s be honest with each other, we were all thinking about the food); a time for Band Aid, East 17 and Michael Bublé to serenade us; a time where pyjama and duvet days prevail. I could keep listing things about Christmas, but that would take forever, so I won’t (besides, my GCSE English teacher always said “the list of three will work wonders – it will engage your readers, keeping them interested, but not bored” … so here’s hoping they were right!). It is also a time for the many, many Christmas films to come out of the cupboard and make their way to the screens; Elf, A Christmas Carol, Home Alone … and … dare I say it … Die Hard (controversial, I know).
Here at the Cambridge Practice, we are all embracing the festive season in our own ways; in the secretaries’ office we have tinsel around desks, lights around screens and cute Santa post-it-notes stuck to desks; in the Reception area at Lower Farnham Road we have a lovely nativity set (rumour has it, this was made by a patient and given to us to be displayed forevermore) … Plus, the time has now come for Christmas jumpers in the Practice! Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s taste in Christmas clothing – I hope you are too! And who can forget the Christmas songs being played on the radio?! I can never resist a mini karaoke session whenever possible (so if you see anyone walking along the corridor in the surgery singing along to music that isn’t actually playing – it will probably be me – I’m not mad, I promise; I just love a good sing-along!).
Now, however much a lot of us will enjoy Christmas, we have to remember those who are less fortunate than us – those who may be alone, homeless, unable to buy what they need … Christmas, although a time to be merry, is also a prime time for being the best version of yourself; we are, as a nation, beginning to bring love and acceptance to the forefront of our lives; I have seen so many things on the internet about people who have been touched by random acts of kindness – albeit paying for a coffee, returning a dropped item, or even paying for something as simple as a birthday card. These things that may seem small to some of us are something massive to those less fortunate. So please, check on your neighbours who are spending Christmas alone, spare a thought for people who cannot have what others will have this season – it does not take much – just a thought – but I know that if I was struggling, knowing I am being thought of would make a world of difference.
So for now from all of us at The Cambridge Practice;
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2020!